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Initial O: The Pietà
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Master of the Lee Hours
Flemish, probably Ghent, about 1450 - 1455
Tempera colors, gold leaf, and gold paint on parchment
7 5/8 x 5 1/2 in.
MS. 2, FOL. 244

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Within a letter O, the stiff and emaciated body of the dead Christ extends across the lap of the Virgin Mary, who is seated at the foot of the cross. Mary Magdalene and Saint John the Evangelist join the Virgin in mourning Jesus. The scene introduces one of the most popular medieval prayers addressed to the Virgin Mary, the Obsecro te, which begins: "I beseech you, Mary, holy lady, mother of God, most full of piety, most glorious mother, the way for those who stray, the salvation for those who hope in you, virgin before, during, and after birth, come and hasten to my aid and counsel." The jesters in the border bear no relationship to the page's text. They are a part of the whimsical visual vocabulary of late medieval illuminators.