Initial I: Virgin and Child
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Italian, probably Bologna, about 1250 - 1262
Tempera and gold leaf on parchment
10 9/16 x 7 3/4 in.
MS. 107, FOL. 194V

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A standing Virgin Mary carrying the infant Jesus adorns the first initial of the Book of Esther. The Jewish queen Esther is renowned for acting as an intercessor on behalf of the Jewish people. The Old Testament book that bears her name recounts the appeal she made to the Persian king Ahasuerus in order to save the Jews from an impending massacre. For this reason, Esther was praised as a heroic model and associated with the Virgin Mary, whom medieval Christians saw as their intercessor with Christ.

This manuscript highlights several characteristics of early Gothic Italian illumination, for example, the elegant poses, graceful drapery folds, and the green ground that serves as the undertone of the figures' flesh.