Bifolium with Christ in Majesty in an Initial A, from an Antiphonary

Date: ca. 1405

Geography: Made in Prague

Culture: Bohemian

Medium: Tempera, gold, and ink on parchment

Dimensions: Overall: 22 5/16 × 15 13/16 in. (56.7 × 40.2 cm)
historiated letter: 6 5/8 × 5 1/2 in. (16.8 × 14 cm)
Framed (Mat size): 27 5/8 × 21 1/4 in. (70.2 × 54 cm)

Classification: Manuscripts and Illuminations

Credit Line: The Cloisters Collection and The Rendl Fund, 2013

Accession Number: 2013.38


This was the first page of a richly painted antiphonary, believed to have been created for a monastery in Bohemia, but sent during the religious unrest of the Hussite Revolution to Saint Peter's, Salzburg, where it is first recorded. The image of the kneeling abbot in black at the left obscures the praying figure of the original, unknown donor, who was clothed in orange!

More than fifty luxury Bohemian manuscripts created between 1355 and 1419 are known still today, but archival records provide the names of only ten illuminators, suggesting that the illuminations were the work of a small number of professionals. Among them, the most celebrated is "Frantisek," named as a "royal illuminator" as of 1397, who owned two residences in the Old Town of Prague, an indication of his relative affluence. Others seem to have lived principally in the New Town.