Manuscript Leaf with the Crucifixion, from a Missal


Not on view

An exquisite example "of that art which, at Paris, they call illumination," this painting on parchment was once set into a missal, containing the liturgical texts for the celebration of the Mass. Here, as Jesus hangs on the cross, flanked by the Virgin Mary and Saint John, the diminutive figure of Adam rises from a sarcophagus at the foot of the cross and collects the sacrificial blood that spills from the wound in Christ's foot in a chalice of the type used in contemporary services. Two angels bearing symbols of the sun and the moon emerge from clouds at each of the upper corners. The figures are dramatically isolated against alternating panels of diapered and tesselated backgrounds. The pigment used for flesh tones has flaked away in several areas, exposing the refined pen-work underdrawing; the head of Saint John is the best preserved. The miniature is closely related to a missal and epistolary for Franciscan use made for Jean Cholet of Nointel when he was cardinal from 1290 to 1291.

These deluxe Parisian missals were ornamented with a series of historiated initials that incorporated illustrations of the principal feasts of the Church year. Full-page illuminations representing the Crucifixion and Christ in Majesty preceded the Canon of the Mass (that part of the service when bread and wine are consecrated as the body and blood of Christ).

Manuscript Leaf with the Crucifixion, from a Missal, Tempera and gold on parchment, French

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