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Entombment of Christ: folio 49r
Title : Entombment of Christ: folio 49r Entombment of Christ: folio 49r
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Creator : Catholic Church.
Source : Italian Book of hours, c1375 [manuscript]
Place Of Creation : Central Italy
Date of creation : c. 1375
Format : Manuscript
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Description :

In the Adelaide Hours there are 19 thumb-nail sized historiated initials [initial capitals that contain an illustration that is relevant to the particular passage] which are six lines high and introduce the main sections of the book. These are very elaborate with foliate and knotted motifs, highlighted in white. The predominant colours are blue, yellow, orange, green and pink with a lavish use of burnished gold. These initials contain a story, usually a moment in the life of Christ or of his mother the Virgin Mary. The letters are painted blue and pink, forming the frame for the image; there is often a further line in gold inside the main frame. It is this internal line of gold that is often used to bring the 'action' of the image closer to the reader, by positioning the picture over or beyond the internal frame.

Folio 49r Letter C The lamentation: compline. Virgin Mary and three Disciples lament over the shrouded body of Christ. Most of the inner golden frame is obscured in this image. This composition is very similar to that for the Deposition (Descent from the cross): however Christ is now dressed in burial robes, and trees from the site of the tomb site fill the background instead of the ladder and cross. Again the image almost totally obscures the gold inner frame of the letter, drawing the image of Christ and the mourners into the viewer's space.

The borders are of lavish acanthus foliage, with a naked human figure in the top left corner, and in the lower border there is a pelican with a fish in its bill and a green lizard or dragon. In the medieval period the pelican became a symbol of the Passion of Christ, because it was believed the bird was so attentive to its young that it would pierce its own breast to feed them on its blood. The Gothic border was a development of the late 12th and early 13th centuries, and occupying the margins of the pages, allowed a greater interaction between the text and the illustration. In the Adelaide Hours the use of burnished gold is not restricted to the historiated initial but is used throughout the border decoration.

Further reading :

Stocks, Bronwyn 'The Illustrated Office of the Passion in Italian Books of Hours' in The art of the book: its place in medieval worship edited by Margaret M. Manion and Bernard J. Muir Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1998 pp. 111-152

The medieval imagination: illuminated manuscripts from Cambridge, Australia and New Zealand edited by Bronwyn Stocks and Nigel Morgan South Yarra, Vic.: Macmillan Art Pub., 2008 pp.184-85

The Cambridge illuminations: ten centuries of book production in the medieval West edited by Paul Binski & Stella Panayotova London: Harvey Miller, 2005

De Hamel, Christopher A history of illuminated manuscripts Oxford: Phaidon, 1986

Harthan, John Books of hours and their owners London: Thames & Hudson, c1977

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