Large Historiated Initial Featuring Illuminated Miniature of a Pope
LARGE HISTORIATED INITIAL DEPICTING A POPE, FINELY ILLUMINATED IN GOLD AND RICH COLOUR.
Reading from a lectern, the Pope is depicted in full regalia, wearing the distinctive triple crown, or triregnum, and holding the crucifix-topped crosier. His robe is a deep blue and likely pigmented by lapis lazuli—a mineral so valuable in Medieval Europe that is typically reserved for the Virgin Mary and occasionally referred to as blue gold. A vista of green hillsides and blue mountains is seen from a window within the miniature. Noteworthy are the multiple textiles displayed in the room, including mauve drapery as well as the lectern cloth whose embroidered design is emulated here in gold filagree.
Highly intricate, monochromatic green acanthine detail adorns the body of the initial. If such handiwork does not alone merit admiration, the gilding of the initial’s field as well as that of the Pope’s halo showcase excellent tooling—the use of metal stamps to create blind impressions on the surface of the gold. Tooled flowers and foliage pattern the field while circles of varying design radiate around the papal triple crown.
A liturgical calendar in the top right of the miniature reads “1491”, providing both a terminus ad quo for the manuscript and a possible identity for the miniature’s subject. Pope Innocent VIII reigned from 1484 to 1492, and so perhaps he is represented in this miniature, but it is equally possible the image simply represents a generic figure of a pope.
Size as visible through frame: 125 x 102 mm (5.0 x 4.0 inches). With frame: approx. 10x9 in.
S. Germany, c.1491. Some loss to the colour around the curve of the “P”. Striking contrast of green, blue and burnished gold. Uncommon subject for historiated initials, with much to appreciate historically and aesthetically in this handsomely-sized piece. With linen matte and early frame (some chips on frame). Not examined out of frame.
Joseph Hansen, Geschichte des Hexenwhns und der Hexenverfolgung im Mittelalter (Bonn: Georgi, 1907)
Alan Charles Kors and Edward Peters, Witchcraft in Europe, 400-1700: A Documentary History, 2nd edn. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001).
Price: $7,500 .