Bifolium with Christ in Majesty in an Initial A, from an Antiphonary, Tempera, gold, and ink on parchment, Bohemian

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

ca. 1405
Made in Prague
Tempera, gold, and ink on parchment
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)
Manuscripts and Illuminations
Credit Line:
The Cloisters Collection and The Rendl Fund, 2013
Accession Number:
Not on view
With rich color and gold, this leaf from a choir book joins majesty and mystery with a sense of playfulness. The letter A becomes a throne for Christ, robed in silks, as he sits before a cloth of gold held by barely perceptible crimson angels. Meanwhile, in the margins, a gentle black bear perches on a vine; nearby is a lizard and a hunter aiming his arrow at a crane. This was the first page of a richly decorated book of hymns. The text set to music here was sung on the first Sunday of Advent, the season preceding Christmas.

The kneeling abbot was added later, obscuring the image of the original, unknown donor underneath.
St. Peter's, Salzburg (before 1504) [entire manuscript] ; by donation to Raitenhaslach Monastery, Bavaria (in 1504) ; Stifts Seitenstetten, Austria (until ca. 1927) ; sale, Maggs Brothers, London (1928, no. 289) [as individual bifolium] ; Private Collection, Europe (after 1928–before World War II) ; the same Private Collection, United States (during World War II) ; the same Private Collection, Switzerland (after World War II) ; sale, Christie's, London (November 21, 2012, no. 5) ; [ Dr. Jörn Günther Antiquariat (November 2012–sold January 2013)]
Neuwirth, Joseph. "Studien zur Geschichte der Miniturmalerie in Oesterreich." Sitzungsberichte der Philosophisch-Historischen Classe der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften 113 (1886). pp. 202–11.

Schmidt, Gerhard. "Fragmente eines böhmischen Antiphonariums des frühen 15. Jahrhunderts (ehemals in Seitenstetten) und eine Marientod-Initiale der Rosenwald Collection." Weiner Jahrbuch für Kunstgeschichte 22 (1969). pp. 148–56.

Boehm, Barbara Drake, and Jiri Fajt, ed. Prague: The Crown of Bohemia, 1347–1437. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005. no. 116, pp. 269–74.

Fajt, Jiri, and Barbara Drake Boehm, ed. Karl IV., Kaiser von Gottes Gnaden: Kunst und Repräsentation des Hauses Luxemburg 1310-1437. Munich: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2006. no. 184, pp. 521–24.

Valuable Manuscripts and Printed Books. London: Christie's, November 21, 2012. no. 5, p. 11.