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Ornamented Monogram VD
Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire, France (Place created)
first quarter of 11th century
Tempera colors, gold, silver, and ink on parchment
Leaf: 23.2 x 17.9 cm (9 1/8 x 7 1/16 in.)
The elaborate, enlarged, and decorated initials of the monogram VD set the tone for the magisterial service of the Christian Mass contained in this sacramentary, the book read by the priest during this most important ceremony. These letters are a standard abbreviation for the first two words of the Preface of the Mass, Vere dignum (It is truly fitting). An abundant design of interlaced geometric knots and leafy forms of gold and silver grow around the letters. A tightly braided knot in the center ties these letters together into the form of a cross, a standard feature of the VD monogram.
The remainder of the text is written in gold on a purple background within a gold and silver frame, matching the decorative treatment of the facing page. Through this kind of decorative elaboration of the letters, Nivardus of Milan, the illuminator and scribe of this manuscript, united text and ornament in the page's visual design. This sumptuous text page, particularly the use of gold and silver inks and the reddish-purple painted background that imitates the purple-dyed parchment of antiquity, recalls the most splendid books of Imperial Rome.