Decorated Initial S
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Antonio da Monza
Italian, Rome, late 1400s to early 1500s
Tempera colors and gold leaf on parchment

25 1/4 x 17 1/8 in.

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The introit for Pentecost in this gradual opens with the words: Spiritus domini replevit orbe[m] terraru[m] (The spirit of the Lord filled the whole world). The decorated initial S is a flourish of classically inspired arabesques and horns. Mimicking the sense of the text, the S nearly fills the entire space relegated to it. The illuminator Antonio da Monza contained the exuberant curvilinear forms of the initial within an illusionistic frame that seems to project from the page. Da Monza drew on an antique visual vocabulary made popular by the recent discovery of the Golden House of Nero in Rome.