This illuminated initial M was cut from an unidentified antiphonary (a choir book containing the sung portions of the Divine Office). The Annunciation scene is bifurcated by the letter, whose arches frame the figures of the Virgin and the Angel Gabriel kneeling before her. The wooden floor, rendered with a spiraling grain pattern, suggests that the sacred scene is unfolding in a domestic interior. The initial marked the first antiphon at vespers on the feast of the Annunciation, March 25: “Missus est Gabriel Angelus ad Mariam Virginem desponsatam Joseph” (The Angel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary, who was betrothed to Joseph). The text on the cutting’s verso contains the beginning of the antiphon for the first nocturn of this feast: “Sicut mir[ra electa odor]em dedisti suavi[tatis, sancta Dei Genetrix]” (Like precious myrrh you gave forth an odor of sweetness, Holy Mother of God), which is derived from Ecclesiasticus 24:19–20.
Formerly associated with the Sienese and Florentine schools and the hand of Pacino di Bonaguida, the illumination has been attributed to the prolific Florentine illuminator known as the Maestro Daddesco. Numerous cuttings and manuscripts are attributed to thea artist, including choir books commissioned for the cathedral of Santa Maria dei Fiore in Florence. However, the scope and chronology of the artist’s activities, as well as his relationship to the renowned master Bernardo Daddi, remain the subject of debate. While some scholars consider the Maestro Daddesco to be a follower of Daddi and date his activity to the second third of the fourteenth century, others view him as an innovative contemporary or even a predecessor of Daddi, who was active between 1310 and 1330.
The Lehman illumination has been stylistically compared to the miniatures of a choirbook (known as Gradual D, Rome, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme), dated 1315, which was produced for the Badia a Settimo, near Florence, and which forms the basis for reconstructing the Maestro Daddesco’s oeuvre. These works have also been compared with two cuttings attributed to the Maestro Daddesco, both depicting two standing saints in an initial S (London, Victoria and Albert Museum, ms 996 [810-1894]; Paris, Museé Marmottan, Wildenstein Collection, no. 7). While it has been suggested that the cuttings in London, Paris, and the Lehman Collection originated from the same manuscript or same series of choir books produced for the Badia a Settimo, not all scholars agree they could share a common source.
Subsequently, it has been noted that while there is a general resemblance between the Lehman illumination and works ascribed to the Maestro Daddesco (seen, for example, in the treatment of the initial, the blue background, and the white pen work), the distinct facial types, marked by an oval shape, narrow nose, and loose hair, differ from the rounder faces, broader noses, and individually delineated strands of hair consistently found in miniatures ascribed to the master, such as those in the Badia a Settimo choir books. A comparison of the Lehman illumination with the Annunciation in an initial R (Rome, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, Cor. D, fol. 105) ascribed to the Maestro Daddesco, reveals a similar treatment of the Angel Gabriel’s hair, which is twisted at the hairline; however, the facial types and rendering of drapery diverge. The Lehman Annunciation seems to exemplify an older style, related to the circle of the Master of Saint Cecilia (active ca. 1290–1320) and point to the close affinities with the figural types found in the Saint Peter altarpiece executed for San Pier Maggiore (San Simone, Florence), attributed to the Saint Cecilia Master or a follower. The unusual physiognomies of the Virgin and Angel Gabriel in the Lehman illumination, characterized by the very aquiline noses, correspond very closely to those of the two angels in the altarpiece. The Lehman Annunciation may provide evidence of the Maestro Daddesco’s very early activity from about 1310–15, prior to his contribution to the Badia a Settimo choir books and the influence of the Master of the Codex of Saint George. This proposal is consistent with the identification of the Maestro Daddesco’s earliest phase as from about 1310 to 1320, subsequent to his training in the circle of the Master of Saint Cecilia.
[Adapted from Alison Manges Nogueira 2012]
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