Manuscript Illumination with the Martyrdom of Saint Stephen in an Initial E, from a Gradual
Niccolò di Giacomo da Bologna (Italian, Bologna, active 1349–1403)
Made in Bologna, Italy
Tempera, gold, and ink on parchment
Overall: 7 1/2 x 6 15/16 in. (19 x 17.6 cm)
Mat size: 19 1/4 x 14 1/4 in. (48.9 x 36.2 cm)
Manuscripts and Illuminations
Purchase, Gift of George Blumenthal, by exchange, Elaine Rosenberg and Austin B. Chinn Gifts, and Bequest of Fannie F. Einstein, in memory of Emanuel Einstein, by exchange, 2007
Not on view
An archbishop of Lucca, whose family served as bankers to the pope, commissioned Niccolò da Bologna, a renowned illuminator, to create a set of choir books for the Carthusian monastery in nearby Farneta. In the nineteenth century, the monks had to sell the books, which eventually were cut up and divided among collectors. From this single initial, it is easy to understand Niccolò's fame. He infused the harrowing scene of the stoning of Stephen with elegance-in the lines of flowing drapery, touches of gold, and vibrant color. At the same time, he intensified the drama by compressing five figures and an outsized throne into the confines of the letter and then, after the scene was painted, emphatically separating the evil men from the saint with the finishing pink stroke of the crossbar of the E.
From a gradual created for the Carthusian monastery of the Holy Spirit at Farneta, near Lucca; Certosa di Farneta, near Lucca; James Dennistoun, Dennistoun, Scotland (acquired 1838); Isabella Dennistoun Henson(1869-1949), Durham, England; Kenneth Clark, Lord of Saltwood(about 1930); Sotheby's, London, June 18, 1962, lot 125, no. 8 of 18 miniatures; H. P. Kraus, New York (in 1986); [ Dr. Jörn Günther Antiquariat, Hamburg (by 1997)]; Private Collection, Europe; [ Dr. Jörn Günther Antiquariat, Hamburg (2007)]
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Recent Acquisitions: A Selection, 2007-2008." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 66, no. 2 (Fall 2008). p. 15.
Boehm, Barbara Drake. "Choirs of Angels: Painting in Italian Choir Books, 1300-1500." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 66, no. 3 (Winter 2009). p. 9, fig. 3.