(England (Oxford?), mid-13th century). 184 x 127 mm. (7 1/4 x 5"). Double column, 54 lines of text, in a very fine gothic pearl script.
Rubrics in red, capitals struck with red, headings and chapter numeral in red and blue, verso with two two-line initials in red or blue with contrasting penwork tendrils extending three-quarters of the length of each column, recto WITH AN APPEALING SIX-LINE HISTORIATED "C" DEPICTING KING SOLOMON WITH HIS SWORD, the figure on a burnished gold background delicately embellished with white scrollwork, the initial executed in pink and blue with white tracery. One tiny fore-edge tear, fore margin of verso with one-inch square glue stain from older repair to very small hole, the initial with minuscule loss of gilt just at the top of the king's head, otherwise in fine condition, the leaf clean, fresh, and bright, the initial detailed and attractive, and the margins very generous.
This excerpt from what is called in the Protestant canon the Second Book of Chronicles tells of King Solomon's plans to build a temple using the finest materials obtainable. The wise king appears in our initial sitting before a wall painted in gold and patterned with scrolling vines, a design feature common to many historiated initials, but also (perhaps not coincidentally) indicative of his great wealth. In the first chapter of this book, Solomon asks the Lord only for wisdom, and so appropriately he is shown here holding the sword of justice, the massive blade resting against his shoulder. His bearded face, shown in three-quarter view, wears a solemn, thoughtful expression which the artist has skillfully suggested with a few sensitive lines. In addition to its attractive decoration, our leaf has the bonus of noticeably ample margins, an uncommon luxury in portable Bibles such as this one. Unlike most individual leaves from Bibles and Books of Hours, we are fortunate to have additional provenance information on this item. It comes from a Bible that is sometimes referred to as the "Alan Thomas Bible," which was sold at Sotheby's in 1993 (and thereafter broken up). Sotheby's notes that the complete work was profusely illustrated, with 133 painted initials, 78 of which were historiated (including the present example). The description also notes that "It has been marked up for monastic reading, including a reference to use in the refectory (f. 107v) where it was doubtless read aloud during meals." (CBM1010)
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PJP Catalog: 70.313