Saturday, 6 February 2016

A New Cutting by the So-Called Master of Monza

In a previous post I reproduced some of the series of late 13th-century cuttings from a volume of saints' lives, formerly attributed to a Spanish artist in the circle of the Master of the Beatus of San Andrés de Arroyo in La Spezia, but now re-attributed to a Lombard illuminator.

Since then, at least one more has come back on the market, from the Zeileis collection:
The most detailed study of the manuscript and the artist is Giovanni Valagussa, "Santi Lombardi di fine Duecento", Scritti per l'istituto germanico di Storia dell' Arte di Firenze (Florence, 1997), pp.23-34. He showed that the style could be related to Lombard works, including a fresco at Cremona, south-east of Milan, and especially a choirbook probably made for a church in Monza, a short distance north-east of Milan, as suggested by the fact that it includes the rare local saint St Theodolinda.

The Monza manuscript is now in Krakow, Poland (Bibl. Jagiellonska, Rps. akc 20/1951), in the catalogue of which the Monza origin is proposed, and hence the artist is named the Miniatore di Monza (Zofia Ameisenowa, Rękopisy i Pierwodruki Iluminowane Biblioteki Jagiellońskej (Wrocław, 1958), pp.16-18, figs.14-17).

Valagussa's list of cuttings is expanded by Gaudenz Freuler, Italian Miniatures from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Centuries (Milan, 2013), pp.426-31; among these is one in Florence. Agreeing with Valagussa that the Krakow choirbook initials are by the same artist as the saints' lives cuttings, he notes:
"Proof of a further broken-up choirbook by the same illuminator is furnished by a small cutting with a princess saint in an initial V in the Enrico Frascione collection in Florence". 
In the anonymous auction catalogue of manuscripts from the collection of Arnold Mettler (1867-1945) of St Gallen
Mensing et fils (Frederik Muller et Cie), Catalogue d'une collection de manuscrits à miniatures des IXe-XVe siècles: collection d'un amateur suisse; vente à Amsterdam le 22 novembre 1929
is a cutting apparently not known to either of them:

What is particularly surprising is that the cutting appears to include music, both above and below. 

A close look at the reproduction in the catalogue, however, suggests instead that the miniature has been stuck to another fragment bearing music, with the miniature overlapping some of the neumes:

Having read this, I wondered whether the Florence cutting (which I have not seen) really is from a choirbook, or whether it could be from the same Lives of Saints manuscript, but stuck to a fragment of a choirbook, as seems to have happened with the Mettler one?

Looking again at the Valagussa article, it became apparent, even in reproductions, that the initials in the Monza choirbook are cut from another manuscript and stuck in. There are several pieces of evidence for this.

First, it is clear that at least two of them just do not "fit": St Peter is fully-painted but, in a strange juxtaposition of techniques, inhabits the middle of a so-called puzzle initial:

A saint-bishop awkwardly overlaps his single-colour initial:
In fact, it is clear that this bishop used to be an initial "I", and he has simply been superimposed nonsensically on an initial "D".

Something similar has happened with the so-called St Theodolinda:
Clearly she used to be an initial "X" (perhaps for Xpina i.e. Christina?) but has been used here as an initial "I", for the incipit "In potentatibus".

Additionally, one can discern the edges of the cut-out initials, as for example on the right-hand side  of the "X":
and its descender:

The choirbook includes at least one other very odd piece of decoration: it looks as if a cut-out miniature was incorporated simply because it was available, not because it serves any function:

One can even see that in some places a cut-out initial overlaps some text and music, just as in the newly recognised Mettler cutting:

All this suggests several things. First, it seems to prove that the illuminated copy of the saints' lives existed first, and was later cut up, perhaps specifically to provide decoration for the choirbook. It thus seems likely that the artist was not available to the church in Monza who commissioned the manuscript, otherwise they would presumably have asked him to create the correct initials, rather than having to make-do with incorrect ones (e.g. an "X" for an "I", and an "I" for a "D"). If the artist was not locally available at Monza, his sobriquet "Master of Monza" may be rather inaccurate and misleading. If the Krakow choirbook is complete (the catalogue does not give a collation) then presumably the cuttings derive from a companion volume.

Often series of cuttings like these have been cut from their parent volumes since the mid-18th century, but in this case it seems very likely that the saints' lives manuscript was cut up in the Middle Ages; I cannot tell, based on the available reproductions, what is the date of the Monza choirbook into which they are stuck, but I suspect that it is significantly later than the cuttings themselves.

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