Saturday, 5 January 2019

Cuttings by the Monza Master [II]

Despite having written in the previous post about the flimsiness of the relationship between the initials by the Monza Master, and the choirbook in Cracow into which some of them as stuck, it is worth looking more closely at the volume as a whole.

First, the initial at the top of the previous post is a detail from a double-page view reproduced in Sobańska, 2011 (cited in the previous post), apparently on fol. 110v:
It is surprising that this initial is omitted from the 1958 description of the manuscript, and thus also from the list of Monza Master initials in the McCarthy catalogue. In a narrow sense, therefore, this is a "new" / "unknown" cutting.

Being an initial "A", the initial presumably represents one of several male saints whose vita begin with this letter: perhaps Anthony, Amand, Alexis, Apollinaris, or Adrian (as the figure does not have an obvious attribute, and is not dressed as an abbot or bishop, we can probably exclude Andrew, Ambrose, Augustine, Arsenius, and Agathus). 

A second cutting, shown at the top of this post, has not previously associated with the series, but I think it must belong to it. It appeared in Maggs Catalogue 1059, Papyrus to Paper (London, [1985?]), no. 23:

From the fact that the initial is a "U"/"V" and depicts a crowned female saint, it probably comes from the chapter on St Ursula and the 11,000 Virgins, which begins "Undecim milium virginum ...", and which in the following sentence records that Ursula was the daughter of a king [online edition]. (Alternately, it perhaps could be from the vita of an unnamed virgin of Antioch, which begins "Virgo quadam fuit Antiochiae ..." [online edition]; she is not described as a princess or queen, but when looking for inspiration the artist's eye might conceivably have alighted on the phrase "Venit enim coronae dies ...", which occurs near the beginning).

I wonder if this cutting is the "small cutting with a princess saint in an initial V in the Enrico Frascione collection in Florence" from a "broken-up choirbook", mentioned by Freuler in his 2013 catalogue?

Having added two cuttings to the most recent published list, we must now remove two. An initial sold at Sotheby's, 8 December 1975, lot 8, described in the Sotheby's catalogue as "a male saint, perhaps a hermit, holding a book and standing before a tower ... with a decorated initial M", is identified in the McCarthy catalogue as "St Paul the Hermit(?)", but this is in fact identical with a cutting formerly in the Forrer collection, listed as a separate item in the McCarthy catalogue as St Macarius, a more plausible identification:
Sotheby's, 8 December 1975, lot 8
Forrer, pl. VIII [Source]

One of the cuttings listed in the McCarthy catalogue is said to be a Pentecost on the "antefolium" of the Cracow volume. The 1958 catalogue gives the dimensions as 325×237mm -- far larger than any other cutting known by the Monza Master -- and includes a reproduction, from which we can see that it has nothing in common with the 13th-century artist:
The 1958 catalogue dates it to the second quarter of the 16th century, and I suspect that it may be even later, but in any case, it probably provides a mid 16th-century terminus post quem for the date at which the undecorated volume in Cracow was embellished with illuminated cuttings.

The initial "Q" to the right of the Virgin shows that this was not painted as a self-contained miniature, but served to introduce a text in a codex, presumably one of the common antiphons for the feast of the Assumption, "Quae est ista quae ascendit" or "Quam pulchra es amica mea". This in turn suggests that the volume in which it was painted had outlived its usefulness by the time this miniature was cut from it, and that the embellishment of the volume in Cracow happened even later, perhaps as recently as the 20th century, as de Hamel has proposed. He may be right, but I think that the added foliate decorations around the miniature above, and around the one below, look earlier in style:

Finally, although it does not affect the number of cuttings, we might reconsider the identification of one of them. The Cracow codex has a cutting, apparently originally an initial "I", superimposed on an initial "D", depicting a saint holding as his attribute a pot or flask, identified as St Ignatius of Antioch in the McCarthy catalogue:

The fact that he is wearing a pallium ought to mean that he is an archbishop or pope. A comparison with other cuttings shows that, lacking any other identifying attribute, archbishops and popes are usually shown in a standardised way, holding either a book or crozier:
St Sylvester
St Basil
St Thomas Becket
St Hilary
St Boniface
This makes it even more likely that the flask/jar held by the unidentified saint is a deliberate and significant identifier, and thus makes it doubtful that he is St Ignatius of Antioch. If the selection of stories in the parent volume of Lives of Saints was adapted to the region in which it was made, he might instead represent a lesser-known local saint, and thus be a clue to the origin of the manuscript.

No comments:

Post a Comment