Manuscript Illumination with the Birth of the Virgin in an Initial G, from a Gradual

Artist: Don Silvestro de' Gherarducci (Italian, Florence 1339–1399 Florence)

Date: ca. 1375

Geography: Made in Florence, Italy

Culture: Italian

Medium: Tempera, ink, and gold on parchment

Dimensions: Overall: 11 1/2 x 11 3/4 in. (29.2 x 29.8 cm)
Mat Size: 22 x 16 in. (55.9 x 40.6 cm)

Classification: Manuscripts and Illuminations

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1921

Accession Number: 21.168


The letter G, overgrown by rich foliage with lillies, opens into the interior of Saint Anne's bedroom. Having given birth to a daughter, she sits up on her bed and glances at her child, who is about to be bathed. A maiden with the child on her lap is testing the temperature of the water in the bowl, while another adds more water to it. Other maidens are gathered around Saint Anne. A nimbed female figure, probably Anne's sister Hismeria, sits on the edge of the bed and, with a prophetic glance, turns her head upward.
This initial G was the first letter of the introit to the Mass for the feast commemorating the birth of the Virgin, while the iconography is Sienese. Faithfully following the composition of Pietro Lorenzetti's Birth of the Virgin altarpiece for Siena Cathedral, the leaf comes from a series of choir books made for the use of the monks of Santa Maria degli Angeli, a Camaldolese monastery in Florence, of which Don Silvestro was a member.