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Leaf from a Gradual: Initial (R) with Mass for the Dead (recto)

Leaf from a Gradual: Initial (R) with Mass for the Dead (recto)

c. 1480

Part of a set. See all set records

Ink, tempera, and gold on parchment

Sheet: 77 x 52 cm (30 5/16 x 20 1/2 in.)

Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1927.425.2.a

Description

This leaf was excised from a volume of a large set of choral books known to have been commissioned by Bartolomeo delle Rovere for Ferrara Cathedral. Delle Rovere, nephew of Pope Sixtus IV, was the Bishop of Ferrara from 1474 to 1494 and his arms appear in the rondel at the bottom of the page: a shield bearing an oak tree (rovere in Italian) surmounted by a patriarchal cross, the symbol of his rank and authority. Payment records indicate that Argenta worked on the choir books for Ferrara Cathedral from 1478 to 1486. The large historiated initial R dominates the extensive decoration including a realistically painted scene in which a priest (center) surrounded by acolytes stands over the body of the deceased as he reads the Office of the Dead. The ceremony takes place within a vaulted chapel that recedes in space to create the illusion of perspective.

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