Historiated Initial (E) Excised from the Colonna Missal: The Martyrdom of St. Stephen

Historiated Initial (E) Excised from the Colonna Missal: The Martyrdom of St. Stephen

c. 1532

Ink, tempera, and liquid gold on vellum

Sheet: 10 x 10 cm (3 15/16 x 3 15/16 in.)

John L. Severance Fund 1985.140



This initial was once part of a manuscript missal (a service book for the altar) made for Cardinal Pompeo Colonna, probably in the year of his death. The letter E is decorated with gold arabesque and rope-work patterns evocative of Renaissance goldsmithing. At the center is a small pen-and-ink drawing representing the death of Saint Stephen, the Christian Church's first martyr. The text introduced by this initial comes from the Offertory of the Mass for the Feast of Saint Stephen (December 26), and would have read, Elegerunt Apostoli Stephanum (And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith, and the Holy Ghost). The illuminator, Apollonio de' Bonfratelli, was active at the papal court where he decorated manuscripts for Popes Pius IV and V as well as other members of the Church hieiarchy.

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