Antiphoner (1)

St Thomas Aquinas teaching, initial F
Fitzwilliam Mus. MS 278b
Antiphoner, cutting from a leaf
Nicolò da Bologna, Bologna, ca 1370–1380

Image reproduced by kind permission of the Syndics of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Many medieval choir books, particularly those at Italian and Spanish churches of the religious orders, were dismembered and sold in the nineteenth century as single pages or cuttings of illuminated initials. This cutting is one of several from choir books in similar style but as yet these have not been grouped according to the various volumes from which they might have been cut, some of which might still survive in their dismembered state. One cutting from the same book as this one, Fitzwilliam Mus. MS 278a, has the historiated initial for the feast of St Nicholas. The initial shown here illustrates St Thomas Aquinas teaching two Dominicans, a doctor of law, a bishop and two scholars. The letter is an F and the cut off text would have been Felix Thomas doctor ecclesie lumen mundi splendor Italie (Blessed Thomas, doctor of the Church, light of the world, splendour of Italy), the antiphon to the psalms for First Vespers of the 7 March feast of St Thomas. The cutting is 380 x 265 mm in size so the Antiphoner from which it was cut must have been of enormous size. The attribution to the famous Bolognese illuminator, Nicolò di Giacomo di Nascimbene, is entirely convincing.

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