National Gallery of Art, Masterpieces in Miniature: Italian Manuscript Illumincations from the J. Paul Getty Museum
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Regions: Bologna (1 of 2)

Image: Master of Gerona, active c. 1260 - 1300, Initial A: Christ in Majesty, Bologna, late 13th century, antiphonal, Leaf: 58.3 x 40.2 cm (22 15/16 x 15 13/16 in.), The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Ms. Ludwig VI 6, fols. 1v-2, 83.MH.89
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Music: Aspiciens a longe, sung on the first Sunday of Advent, 1300;
Performed by members of the National Gallery of Art Vocal Arts Ensemble, 2005
Lyrics: Latin and English (MP3 1.45MB) Audio help

The first major European university was founded in Bologna in the Middle Ages. Consequently, the city became a leading center of manuscript production in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. One of the greatest Bolognese miniaturists of this era, whose illuminations were inspired by Byzantine art, is known as the Master of Gerona (active c. 1260–1300). In his Initial A, which encloses Christ in Majesty, he lends a forceful, dynamic, physical presence to the figure of Christ. The crowded angels bursting from the letter, Christ’s crisply modeled robe and piercing gaze, and the projecting footstool in front of the sculptural throne all contribute to this quality. The subject of the text is, in fact, the physical presence of Christ in the world. The miniature complements a chant sung on the first Sunday of Advent that begins, “Aspiciens a longe...” which means, “Behold, from afar I see the coming power of God.”

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image: National Gallery of Art image: Manuscripts in Miniature: Italian Manuscripts Illumination from the J. Paul Getty Museum