Ms Typ 133


Ms. Typ 133, fol. 1r Antiphonary Lombardy, ca. 1425

An Antiphonary is a book that contains all the antiphons or responsorial chants required for the performance of the Divine Office. The opening antiphon for the first Sunday in Advent, "Domine praestolamur," rather than being illustrated with an image that corresponds to this paraphrase of Isaiah 8:17 (Lord, we are awaiting your coming) presents the reader -- in this case, the performer -- with a model and reflection of their own activity. In looking at this page, it is as if we can peer over the shoulder of a choir performing from a similar book, opened on a high lecturn placed above the heads of the tonsured canons, who are gathered in two groups (for antiphonal singing?) to either side of the bishop at the center, whose bright red dalmatic and peaked miter with two tassels identify him from the rear. The presence of the bishop in the company of canons in the opening initial probably suffices to identify this otherwise unidentified antiphonal as a book from a cathedral rather than a monastery. Although the projecting ribbed vault provides a strong sense of spatial recession, as does the view of the figures seen from the rear, any sense of depth is counteracted by the brilliant colors and, above all, the generous use of gold ornament on both the vaults and vestments, which, combined with the gold background in the spandrels of the initial, combine to create an overall sense of flat surface pattern. The combination of certain elements derived from late fourteenth-century and early fifteenth-century French illumination, for example, the particolored ivy vines, dragon terminals, and curling acanthus leaves, with a rounded Italianate script (rotunda), regimented penwork decoration and compositions derived from northern Italian panel painting of the second half of the fourteenth century all identify this magnificent, if abraded, initial as a characteristic work of early fifteenth-century Lombard illumination.