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Virgin of Humility: folio 189v
Title : Virgin of Humility: folio 189v Virgin of Humility: folio 189v
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Creator : Catholic Church
Source : Italian Book of hours, c1375 [manuscript]
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] and 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 189v letter C Virgin of Humility with book: the collect Concede nos famulos tuos for the votive Mass of the Virgin. The Virgin is depicted seated on the ground or perhaps a cushion, slightly turned to the reader, but absorbed in the book in her hands. The historiated initial itself is surrounded by gold leaf and with the golden halo is a particularly bright image. Images of reading are quite common in the medieval book and this image illustrates the book and reading as an exemplary and pious activity. The image of the Virgin of Humility is considered rare in Italian illuminated manuscripts before the early 15th century: in part this is because of the restrictive format of the historiated initial which precluded full length figures. The Virgin of Humility '... introducing the votive Mass of the Virgin is, of course, of Sienese origin.' (Fine books p. 14)

The border is typical of others throughout the volume with lavish acanthus foliage. 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

Fine books and book collecting: books and manuscripts acquired from Alan G. Thomas and described by his customers on the occasion of his seventieth birthday edited by Christopher de Hamel and Richard A. Linenthal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire: J. Hall, 1981 pp. 13-14: An Italian Book of Hours circa 1375 by Margaret Manion

Grossinger, Christa Picturing women in late Medieval and Renaissance art New York: Manchester University Press, 1997

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