Saturday 7 October 2023

"Inclitus" Identified

A miniature in the Wildenstein collection (shown above), the largest surviving work by the Master of the Murano Gradual, has usually been identified as depicting "Mission to the Apostles". In a previous blogpost, I suggested that the subject is instead The Selection of St Matthias (as an apostle, to replace Judas).

Even if my suggestion is correct [1], there is still an oustanding puzzle about the miniature: it appears above a single line of text and music, and the text consists of a single word "INCLITUS":

No one has ever been able to identify the text this comes from.

This week I spent a day in London, and went to the British Library to see a Camaldolese Missal, printed at Venice in 1503. Although it was produced several decades later than the work of our illuminator, I thought that it might provide some clues to the identities of some of the unidentified saints in cuttings from the Murano Gradual. It was apparently printed at the behest of Pietro Delfino [Wikipedia], of the Camaldolese monastery of San Michele, on the small island immediately to the north of the main island of Venice, for the community's own use, and that of the other Camaldolese house, San Mattia, on the nearby island of Murano.

Important feasts have woodcut historiated initials, and the most important ones also have full borders, which, in this copy, are sometimes gilded, sometimes painted, and sometimes both. Here, for example, is the the beginning of Advent, at the start of the Temporale:

The lower border includes the lion of St Mark (patron of Venice), next to Sts Benedict and Romuald (founders respectively of the Benedictine and Camaldolese Orders), flanking the emblem of the Camaldolese Order, two doves drinking from a chalice:

This is the page with the start of the main feast of St Romuald:

The historiated initial depicts The Dream of St Romuald, a rare subject, which can be compared with the version by the Master of the Murano Gradual now at the MFA, Boston:


In the same way, the extremely rare scene of the Wildenstein miniature, The Selection of St Matthias, can be paralleled in the printed Missal; both show a group of disciples, with the Dove and heavenly rays descending on Matthias to indicate that he has been selected as a replacement for Judas:

And what is the text that the Missal woodcut illustrates? 

It is an Introit that refers to the selection of Mattias as one of the Twelve Apostles: "Inclytus iste sacer duodeno sorte Mathias elegitur numero iunctus apostolico":

I believe that this establishes, beyond any doubt, what the subject-matter and the text of the Wildenstein miniature are. It also shows that the text is an introit to a Mass, and thus surely comes from the dismembered Murano Gradual, of which many other cuttings survive, and not, as has been suggested, from a completely different volume, a Hymnal.

[1] Lucy Sandler provided supporting evidence for my suggestion, described in an update at the bottom of my previous blogpost.

1 comment:

  1. Bravo! Excellent detective work, Peter.



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