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Leaf from the Wettinger Gradual: Historiated Initial (I) with Scenes from the Life of St. Augustine

Leaf from the Wettinger Gradual: Historiated Initial (I) with Scenes from the Life of St. Augustine

c. 1330

Ink, tempera, and gold on parchment

Sheet: 57.9 x 38.3 cm (22 13/16 x 15 1/16 in.); Framed: 61.6 x 76.8 cm (24 1/4 x 30 1/4 in.); Matted: 71.1 x 55.9 cm (28 x 22 in.)

Mr. and Mrs. William H. Marlatt Fund 1949.203

Description

This imposing leaf comes from the monumental Wettinger Gradual preserved in the Canton Library in Aarau, Switzerland. The focus of the decoration consists of a single massive initial I. It is constructed with four separate compartments featuring scenes from the life of Saint Augustine. The compartments read (from top to bottom): Augustine teaching before his conversion; the dream of Augustine’s mother; Augustine’s baptism; and Augustine teaching monks. The monk in the lower margin holds a scroll that reads in Latin: “Pray for us, blessed Father Augustine.” The initial would have introduced the feast of Saint Augustine (August 28) in the Sanctorale: In medio Ecclesiae aperuit os eius (“And in the midst of the church she shall open his mouth”). Given the prominence of this initial within the gradual, and the depiction of an Augustinian canon in the lower marginal extender, the manuscript was likely produced for a community of Augustinians.

Influenced by Parisian manuscript painting, the illuminators added tendril extenders supporting birds, animals, and, below, an Augustinian monk in prayer. Though nothing is known of their lives or careers, both artists have working styles related to Colognese manuscript and panel painting. It is probable that this leaf, and the parent codex from which it comes, would have originally belonged to an Augustinian religious foundation in Cologne.

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