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Christ enthroned and holding a book, in the Beatus initial from a manuscript of Cassiodorus, Expositio Psalmorum, in Latin
[Rhineland or perhaps adjacent Low Countries
first half of 13th century (perhaps c. 1200)
€7.000 - €10.000

"Illuminated manuscript on vellum, 165 x 105 mm. Rectangular cutting, mostly trimmed to edges of initial, with a large initial 'B' (opening ""Beatus vir. Nimis pulchrum commodumque "", the opening of the main text of Cassiodorus' work after the prologue and short prefatory sections on why the first Psalm has no title and the division of the Psalms) in blue bands heightened with white penwork and enclosing gold panels, all emerging from the mouth and ears of a red beast's mask set at the midpoint of the initial, these bands forming geometric knots at the head, foot and midpoint of the ascender of the initial and terminating in acanthus leaf sprays with small tightly twisting leaves heightened in white, the upper compartment containing a curl of acanthus leaf foliage in red, blue and white with shades of grey and light brown, the lower enclosing the figure of Christ in blue and red robes with flowing hair and a halo, full length and seated on a deis from which acanthus leaf sprays emerge from the armrests, and holding a book, both compartments with gold ground, the initial itself set on a painted ground of tesselated diamond shapes in blue and shades of light brown each with simple foliage picked out in their centre, this above a blue panel with the remaining letters of ""Beatus vir"" in ornamental white capitals, the whole within a blue realistic frame heightened with white penwork. The reverse (in fact the recto of the original leaf) with remains of a single column of 18 lines of a bold and rounded early gothic bookhand, with biting curves and a pronounced angularity to the curved penstrokes of many letters (including an 'o' with a slightly pointed lower righthand foot, and a 'b' whose lowermost curve is broken at its midpoint by a downward point), and one red rubric (""Item quid sit diapsalma"", showing that this text is from the prologue, chapters X and XI), some chipping to paint in places including very small losses to Christ's eyebrow and the drapery near his feet, remnants of old paper mounts on reverse, overall in good and presentable condition"

"This magnificent cutting is from a finely illuminated manuscript of Cassiodorus' commentary on the Psalms. The text was dedicated to Pope Vigilius and completed between 560 and 570 when the author had returned from Constantinople and retired to his ancestral estates at Vivarium in southern Italy. James W. Halporn traces some 147 surviving manuscripts, of which only two were in private hands in the last two centuries ('The Manuscripts of Cassiodorus' 'Expositio Psalmorum', Traditio, 37, 1981, pp. 388-96; those in private hands being Sir Thomas Phillipps' MS. 316 and 12,350, the latter now Brussels, Bib. royale, II.2571). Miniatures and historiated initials of this great age from this region appear rarely on the market. The illumination has elements found in both Rhenish and Flemish art, and the parent manuscript may have been produced within a bustling milieu of artistic exchange along the Rhine and its tributaries. The captivating beast's mask that sits at the centre of the initial has its parallels in Flemish art (see, for example, that in the title page to I Chronicles in a manuscript Bible produced in the late twelfth century in Saint-Amand, now Valenciennes, Bib. mun. MSS. 1-5: reproduced in W. Cahn, Romanesque Manuscripts, 1996, no. 119), but the form of the acanthus leaves points to Rhenish art (see, for example, a cutting with a large initial 'P' from a thirteenth-century Acta Sanctorum manuscript: C. de Hamel, Gilding the Lilly, 2010, no. 30) and the angularity of the geometric knotwork shows strong German influence"