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Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth: folio 57v
Title : Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth: folio 57v Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth: folio 57v
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Creator : Catholic Church
Source : Italian Book of hours, c1375 [manuscript]
Place Of Creation : Central italy
Date of creation : c1375
Format : Manuscript
Contributor : State Library of South Australia
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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 57v: Letter D Visitation: lauds for Hours of the Virgin. Mary and Elizabeth embrace. This is the opening page for the Hours of the Virgin, and commences with this image of Mary embracing her cousin Elizabeth. The Visitation is recorded in the Gospel of Luke chapter 1 verses 39-56; Elizabeth is six months pregnant with the future John the Baptist and the child in her womb leaps in response to the near approach of the unborn Christ child. The poignant scene fills the historiated letter with much of the internal gold frame obscured by the figures. Compare with folio 15r Betrayal of Christ which similarly fills the letter and obscures the gold frame.

The borders are of lavish acanthus foliage, with a naked human figure in the left hand border, and a blue cat-like figure top left. 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

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

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

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