The J. Paul Getty Museum

Inhabited Initial Q

Object Details


Inhabited Initial Q






Montecassino, Italy (Place Created)




Tempera colors, gold leaf, gold paint, and ink

Object Number:

Ms. Ludwig IX 1 (83.ML.97), fol. 295


Leaf: 19.2 × 13.2 cm (7 9/16 × 5 3/16 in.)

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Object Description

A large ornamental Q opens the hymn for the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin, Quis possit amplio famine p[rae]potens[Who can be powerful by great poverty?] in this breviary from Montecassino. The illuminator chose to render this letter in a blue and gold design similar to that of contemporary textiles. This rich yet sober handling contrasts with the multiple vivid colors and the more tangled, frenzied, three-dimensional interlaces and biting dogs in the manuscript's other initials.

The artist gives life to the letter Q by rendering it as a vine scroll with winding tendrils and lots of leaves. Animals, birds, and two men cavort among the branches. The Q's delicate feathery tail, formed by a peacock whose head is caught by the vines, counters the design's symmetry.

Ritual Splendor: Illuminated Liturgical Manuscripts (February 20 to May 6, 2001)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), February 20 to May 6, 2001
Out of Bounds: Images in the Margins of Illuminated Manuscripts (September 1 to November 8, 2009)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), September 1 to November 8, 2009