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Dormition of the Virgin: folio 96v
Title : Dormition of the Virgin: folio 96v Dormition of the Virgin: folio 96v
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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 96v letter D Dormition of the Virgin: vespers in the Hours of the Virgin. The body of the Virgin Mary lies on a sarcophagus, with Christ standing beside her holding her soul represented here as a small child swaddled in gold cloth. Four of the Apostles cluster around. The image completely fills the letter. Mary's death was traditionally referred to as 'a falling asleep' or Dormition; in this state the body did not undergo the corruption of death. Mary's soul was taken directly to Paradise by Christ, and three days later Mary's body ascended to heaven in the Assumption. In this image of the Dormition, Christ's cradling of his Mother's soul mirrors earlier images in the Adelaide Hours of Mary cradling Christ.

The border is typical of others throughout the volume with lavish acanthus foliage; on this page a naked child figure stands out at the top of the border. 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 :

The Book of Kells and the art of illumination: an exhibition under the patronage of Mary McAleese, President of Ireland [and] Sir William Deane AC KBE, Governor-General of Australia Canberra: National Gallery of Australia, 2000 p. 69

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 Chapter 4 The illustrated Office of the Passion in Italian Books of Hours by Bronwyn Stocks

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

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 circ 1375 by Margaret Manion

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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