Ink, tempera, and gold on parchment
Sheet: 56.8 x 38.9 cm (22 3/8 x 15 5/16 in.); Framed: 61.6 x 76.8 cm (24 1/4 x 30 1/4 in.); Matted: 71.1 x 55.9 cm (28 x 22 in.)
Andrew R. and Martha Holden Jennings Fund 1976.100
This splendid bifolium (a sheet folded in half to form two leaves) once formed part of an important antiphonary produced for an unidentified Benedictine monastery in Bohemia. With its rich illumination, it provides an important example of Bohemian painting during the opening years of the 15th century as well as painting in the city of Prague, one of the great court centers of Europe. The decoration of the leaf is dominated by a majestic initial O that depicts the Nativity. A scene in the background shows the angel Gabriel’s Annunciation to the Shepherds. The initial itself is placed within a square frame outside of which a single Benedictine monk observes the sacred event. The initial introduces the Latin chants for the first vespers of Christmas Day: O iuda et iherusalem (“Oh Judea and Jerusalem”). Framing the text are luxurious, scrolling acanthus leaves. Within the upper margin, two prophets emerge from the lush, foliated tendrils to observe the nativity below. In this way, the foretelling of the birth of Christ in the Old Testament is established visually.
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