Initial S: The Conversion of Saint Paul

Object Details

Title:

Initial S: The Conversion of Saint Paul

Artist/Maker(s):

Attributed to Pisanello (Italian, by 1395 - about 1455)

Attributed to the Master of the Antiphonal Q of San Giorgio Maggiore (Italian, about 1440 - about 1470)

Culture:

Italian

Date:

about 1440 - 1450

Medium:

Tempera colors, gold leaf, gold paint, silver leaf, and ink on parchment

Dimensions:

Leaf: 14.1 x 8.9 cm (5 9/16 x 3 1/2 in.)

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In this closely trimmed historiated initial S from a gradual, the illuminator represented Saul's dramatic conversion to Christianity. Dressed in a soldier's helmet and armor, Saul tumbles to earth, his horse collapsing beneath him. Though the artist omitted the rest of the biblical account, in which Saul changes his name to Paul and takes up an evangelical Christian mission, the initial's viewers would have been familiar with the story. In the top half of the initial, another soldier, seated erect on a more elaborately liveried steed, wears a fancy hat and tunic trimmed in green, white, and red, the colors of both the Gonzaga and Este families. Given his visual precedence in the image, this man may have been the book's patron, commissioning the gradual for use in his family's private chapel or for an ecclesiastical foundation under his protection.

Interplay between the naturalistic and decorative elements in the initial adds visual tension to the miniature. The artist represented the imposing physical presence of the horses, including details such as the horseshoes and armor and subtly modeling the surfaces, such as the animals' coats. He then harmoniously integrated these carefully observed figures and their details within the artificial constraints of the shape of the letter S.

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The International Style: Courtly Art Around the Year 1400 (October 24, 1994 to January 8, 1995)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, (Malibu), October 25, 1994 to January 8, 1995
Illuminated Choir Books of the Middle Ages and Renaissance 1995 (April 25 to July 9, 1995)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, (Malibu), April 25 to July 9, 1995
Da Altichiero a Pisanello (May 6 to August 5, 1996)
  • Musée du Louvre, (Paris), May 6 to August 5, 1996
Masterpieces of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscript illumination (December 16, 1997 to March 22, 1998)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), December 16, 1997 to March 22, 1998
Faces of Power and Piety: Portraits in Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts (February 2 to April 18, 1999)
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Italian Manuscript Illumination (May 9 to July 30, 2000)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), May 9 to July 30, 2000
Pisanello (October 24, 2001 to January 13, 2002)
  • The National Gallery (London), October 24, 2001 to January 13, 2002
Songs of Praise: Illuminated Choir Books (July 23 to October 13, 2002)
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Fit for a King: Courtly Manuscripts, 1380-1450 (June 29 to August 29, 2004)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), June 29 to September 5, 2004
Masterpieces in Miniature: Italian Manuscripts from the Middle Ages and Renaissance (March 29 to June 12, 2005)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), March 29 to June 12, 2005
Masterpieces in Miniature: Italian Manuscript Illumination from the J. Paul Getty Museum (September 25, 2005 to January 2, 2006)
  • National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), September 25, 2005 to January 2, 2006
Music for the Masses: Illuminated Choir Books (August 14 to October 28, 2007)
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Related Media
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    Audio: Initial S