(France [probably Paris], ca. 1420). 210 x 146 mm. (8 1/4 x 5 3/4"). Single column, recto with five lines of text, verso with 16 lines, all in a very pleasing, very regular gothic book hand.
Attractively matted. Rubrics in red, verso with a one-line and two two-line initials as well as a line filler in colors and burnished gold, recto with a one-line initial and a line filler in the same style, and with a quite large five-line "D" in pink and white with enclosed floral diapering, all on a burnished gold ground, the same side WITH A LOVELY FULL BORDER of swirling hairline stems bearing numerous leaves and berries of burnished gold and with sprays of acanthus leaves and flowers in multiple colors spilling from the corners, this ENCLOSING A POIGNANT ARCH-TOPPED MINIATURE OF THE REMOVAL OF CHRIST FROM THE CROSS (measuring approximately 85 x 60 mm.), the miniature within a thin gold frame and enclosed, in turn, on three sides by bars in colors and gold, the scene showing two men on ladders unfastening Christ's lifeless body from the cross, while Joseph of Arimathea waits below, clutching cloth to be used for a burial shroud as the Madonna, at the lower left of the picture, reaches up to clasp her son's bloody arm. With a small cross stitched in white thread in each upper corner. A little soiling right along hinge edge, a few smudges in the border, a couple of tiny flakes of paint missing from the cross and the sky, otherwise fine, the vellum clean and fresh, the colors rich, and the gold lustrous.
This is an especially sorrowful scene, depicted with power, grace, and sensitivity by an artist demonstrating very considerable skill in composition and execution. The scene is well designed, with the cross providing a device for focus at the center of the miniature. Nicodemus (identified by his expensive attire) is atop a ladder behind the cross, lowering Christ's limp body onto the shoulder of another man, probably a servant, whose ladder is set against the front. Despite the fact that the corpse is more bones than flesh, the artist has made it seem a heavy burden draped over the shoulder of the man as he walks backward down his ladder. Fully stretched out, Christ's left arm is held for balance by Nicodemus at the top right, while the other arm hangs down toward the Virgin. While we can only see her back, her image evokes great pathos, as she reaches up with both hands to grasp the mangled arm of her son, his blood running from his hand onto hers. Joseph of Arimathea, whose position anchors the right side of the picture, looks on with concern, tightly holding linen to shroud the body. (St. John and Mary Magdalen, conventional participants in the Deposition, are not present in this miniature.) While it is possible and even likely that the same artist produced this scene and the miniature of Christ Carrying the Cross, this one is better, as the faces are more deftly painted and the folds in the various garments are more clearly defined. (ST12005f)