Leaf from a Gradual: Historiated Initial S[alve Sancta Parens] with Birth of the Virgin (recto) and Music (verso)

Leaf from a Gradual: Historiated Initial S[alve Sancta Parens] with Birth of the Virgin (recto) and Music (verso)

c. 1420-1450

Part of a set. See all set records

Ink, tempera, and gold on vellum

Each leaf: 52.1 x 34.9 cm (20 1/2 x 13 3/4 in.)

The Jeanne Miles Blackburn Collection 1999.132

Description

This beautiful leaf is dominated by a large historiated S from which sprays of foliage inhabited by a putto, a rabbit, and a stork extend into the left margin. A scene representing the birth of the Virgin is within the double curve of the S. Saint Anne, the Virgin’s mother, occupies the birthing bed in the upper scene. Below, the infant Mary has been bathed and wrapped in swaddling clothes. In manuscript missals and their musical counterparts, the gradual, votive Masses are generally assigned one to each day of the week with Saturday reserved for the Blessed Virgin. The votive Mass to the Virgin varied from season to season. Three Masses were, therefore, supplied—one for advent, one to be used from Christmas to purification, and a third, represented by this leaf, to be used from purification to advent. This text reads: Salve sancta parens (“Hail Holy Parent”) introducing the opening of the Introit for the Saturday votive Mass for the Nativity of the Virgin (September 8) in the liturgical calendar. The identity of the artist remains elusive, as does his precise place of origin. The figure style and ornament suggest a source in North Italy, perhaps in an artistic center such as Pavia, Mantua, or Padua.

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