Anonymous Spanish artist
BEHEADING OF JOHN THE BAPTIST, initial ‘M’ cut from an antiphonal [Spain, 13th century]
A rare Mozarabic initial, representing the stylistic fusion of artistic inheritances from the Islamic East and the Christian West in Moorish Spain: the parent manuscript seems to have been an antiphonal for Cistercian use.
Mozarabic illumination flourished in Spain from the 9th to the 13th century: in this 13th-century example, the influence of Islamic architecture can be seen in particular in the decorative motif that crowns the initial ‘M’, reminiscent of the Moorish horseshoe arch, while the dramatic subject matter – the beheading of St John the Baptist – is Christian. The slender minims of the initial, with delicate tracery decoration left uncoloured in parts, are surrounded by blocks of solid colour without gradation that are typical of the Mozarabic style.
•The parent antiphonal seems to have been made for a Cistercian house: a sister leaf (see below, MFA 17.529) bears text from the Office of the Dead for Cistercian use.
•Twelve sister leaves are known to exist, nine of which were recorded in the collection of Dr Robert Forrer (1866-1947, archaeologist, antiquarian and collector), Strasbourg (see Unedierte Federzeichnungen Miniaturen und Initialen des Mittelalters, Strasbourg, 1907): currently, three are held at the Princeton Museum of Art (PMoA y1027, 1997-546, 1997-547), two are at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (MFA 17.529, 17.530), and another is in a private collection.
•Kornfeld and Klipstein auction, Bern, 8 June 1977, lot 170.
89 x 86mm. The initial ‘M’ most likely opening the Feast of St John the Baptist, ‘Misit Herodes rex manus’; the text on the reverse reads ‘[corpor]ea totus pergit in de[um]’ from the Feast of St Bernard.
Please note this lot is the property of a private consignor.
Christie’s is grateful for the assistance of Peter Kidd, whose work on this group of leaves will be presented in the forthcoming catalogue of the McCarthy Collection.
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