With an Immense Initial on a Leaf that May Be Unfinished

(Italy: early 15th century). 565 x 382 mm. (22 1/8 x 15"). Single column, six lines of music with text, in a large, gothic rotunda.

Matted. Rubrics and staves in red, one one-line initial in red with blue pen work, AN ENORMOUS 15-1/2" HISTORIATED INITIAL DEPICTING THE ASCENSION OF CHRIST, the tail extending into the lower margin and featuring knotwork and some acanthus motifs, the ascender terminating with the head of a beast. ◆Lower margin a touch soiled and wrinkled, but A VERY IMPRESSIVE LEAF IN FINE CONDITION, with only trifling imperfections.

Whatever level of achievement one assigns to the initial here, the artist clearly should be applauded for his audacity. The sheer size of the initial is arresting, and the color attractively employed, with the light pink and muted teal and gray contrasting nicely with the saturated dark blue and poppy orange. The scene depicts the Ascension of Christ into Heaven in a conventional way: all we see of him are the tails of his robes and his sandaled feet, as he is lifted into the blue of the sky. Central to the composition is the Virgin, who is the only figure shown fully frontal, her hands opened in front of her in the typical gesture for prayer, but here probably signaling celebration, as reflected on her animated face. She is surrounded by a sea of haloes meant to represent the 12 Apostles; the saints on either side of her look toward the quickly vanishing Christ and gesture upward in amazement. A curious feature here is the range of opacity in the paint: the Virgin stands out not only because she is front and center, but also because her garments are saturated with thick, rich paint; all the other figures have clothing that is at least partly so pastel that their arms and legs are visible through the material. It is just possible that the artist had not finished his work here.

Price: $13,000.00