Saturday, 15 June 2019

A Miniature of St Augustine Absent From the Rosenwald Collection Catalogue


There have been a number of catalogues in the past decade or two dedicated entirely or primarily to collections of single leaves and cuttings, and I have increasingly come to think that the best model for how such catalogues should be presented is, in fact, one of the earliest, namely Carl Nordenfalk et al, Medieval & Renaissance Miniatures from the National Gallery of Art (Washington, DC, 1975):


I came to fully appreciate its elegance and thoroughness, yet concision, a few years ago, when I had the opportunity to spend some time in Washington, and got to examine the collection reasonably well. The great majority of the collection was donated by Lessing J. Rosenwald [Wikipedia], who, in the Preface to the catalogue, records that "Almost all the miniatures ... were purchased from Dr. Erwin Rosenthal" [1889-1981], "During the war years".

I was therefore surprised to subsequently find a description of an important-sounding leaf, not in the Nordenfalk catalogue, said to be English and of the second quarter of the 12th century, belonging to the Rosenwald Collection at the National Gallery, which was exhibited in LA in 1953-54 (Los Angeles County Museum, Mediaeval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts: A Loan Exhibition, November 25, 1953 – January 9, 1954, no.18):
"Lent by the National Gallery of Art (Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection)"

This item is not reproduced in the 1953-54 catalogue. There is, however, a reference to an earlier, 1950 catalogue (Elizabeth Mongan, Rosenwald Collection: An Exhibition of Recent Acquisitions (Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1950):
In this, there is not only a description:
but also a reproduction:

Interestingly, the cataloguer was aware that "The same composition is used as the title page in a Ms. of St. Augustine, City of God, in Florence ..."

Many readers will already have recognised the black and white image above as being based on the famous English manuscript at the Bibliotheca Laurenziana, usually dated c.1120:

Clearly the Rosenwald miniature is a modern copy, and this explains why it is quietly absent from the 1975 Carl Nordenfalk catalogue. I contacted the relevant curator at the Gallery and he replied that:
'On the old accession card there is this note: “Professor Carl Nordenfalk (1972) points out that it is a 19th century (?) falsification after an English (school of Canterbury) miniature in Laurentiana.”'
A search shows, however, that it is still listed as 12th century in the National Gallery's online catalogue:
[Source]
Arguably this is not entirely wrong, just very incomplete, because the leaf on which the "English" miniature is painted is indeed 12th-century (although it appears to be Italian):

Curiously, the text (for the feast of St Bartholomew) appears to be very rare: the Cantus database records only two sources, both 12th-century, one Beneventan, the other from the Duomo of Florence.

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