Christ Handing Peter the Key to Heaven In a Notable Initial from the Early 12th Century


(Southern Germany(?): early 12th century). 240 x 310 mm. (9 1/2 x 12 1/4"). Double column, 16 intact lines in a large Romanesque script.

Rubrics and two small initials in red, one three-line initial in red, and A STRIKING SIX-LINE (65 x 55 mm.) ROMANESQUE INITIAL "U" DEPICTING CHRIST WITH A BOOK AND ST. PETER WITH THE KEYS TO HEAVEN, the full-length figures and their garments drawn with simple black and red pen lines, Christ's robes and halo touched with a thin wash of green against a light blue ground, the initial drawn in red with light embellishment and washed with yellow. From the collection of Roger Martin (1939-2020). ◆Recovered as a binding lining and thus with overall darkening, creases, small holes, and other condition issues, but the text entirely legible; a small curved tear and a little abrasion just touching the side of the initial, coloring perhaps a bit faded, but overall in excellent condition, the figures intact and representing a remarkable and impressive survival.

This is a large and attractive fragment preserving much of its original appeal, with an exceptionally nice Romanesque initial featuring Christ handing the key of heaven to St. Peter. The two figures, composed of red and black penstrokes and tinged with light washes of color, are rendered with beautiful simplicity. The artist has cleverly placed St. Peter slightly outside the interior of the initial, and Christ mostly within it (with just one foot crossing over its base), as though he is welcoming the Apostle into a sacred space. The composition is uncluttered and elegant, inviting the viewer to enjoy the precision of the artist's pen. Romanesque initials with historiation are not nearly as common as purely decorative ones, and the present subject matter--Christ handing the key to St. Peter--is rare among the examples containing human figures. In institutions, we have been able to locate only two roughly contemporary examples depicting this particular scene (see BL MS Egerton 809, fol. 41, and Walters MS W.754). Although we have no additional information about the parent manuscript, it is clear that this fragment comes from a very substantial volume, and was probably made for the use of a monastery. The date and attribution are made on the basis of the fragment's script and decoration. Sotheby's has suggested parallels to three manuscripts made at Echternacht (see BnF Latin 9558, BnF Latin 8912, and BnF Latin 9740), but this fragment would benefit greatly from additional research. Even in its reused state, it stands out as an unusually fine example of Romanesque art and narrative that would make an excellent addition to any private or institutional collection.

Price: $12,500.00