Cutting from a Gradual: Initial I with Departure of Tobias

Cutting from a Gradual: Initial I with Departure of Tobias

c. 1390

Ink, tempera and gold on vellum

Leaf: 17.8 x 17.4 cm (7 x 6 7/8 in.)

The Jeanne Miles Blackburn Collection 2011.68



The Master of Noah’s Ark was named after an illuminated initial containing that subject now in the Vatican Library. Though he may have worked in Florence, he was unlikely to have been Florentine himself. This rare miniature depicts the story from the apocrypha of Tobias, son of Tobit, a devout Jew in exile who is blind and destitute. Sent out to visit relatives in a distant city in order to find a means of supporting the family, the young Tobias is guided by the Archangel Raphael. This miniature shows the sad and traumatic moment of Tobias’s departure in “continuous narrative” within the same scene (right to left). Within the doorway Tobit and his wife, Anna, are apprehensive. In the center, Tobit prays to God, represented here as the Trinity with two faces and the flame of the Holy Ghost. On the left, Tobias departs with his staff over his shoulder. This initial I would have introduced the text Inclina, Domine, aurem tuam ad me (Turn your ear, O Lord, and hear me). It marks the opening of the 15th Sunday after Pentecost and the beginning of the Introit to the Mass.

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