Gradual of the Chapter of Udine

  • S. XIV (second half); parchment; mm 572 x 395; ff. II,157,II’
  • Udine, ‘Archivio Capitolare’, ms. 29

The Gradual decoration is ascribed to a miniaturist participating in the Gothic-key renewal of the Friulian figurative culture that sprang thanks to Vitale da Bologna’s presence in Udine between 1348 and 1349.

The mutilated choir book contains the chants from Advent Sunday to the 2nd feria after the 3rd Sunday in Lent. It closes with the mass on St. Thomas’ feast and the chants for the holy water aspersion. It is the first volume of a Gradual currently kept at the Archives of the Chapter of Udine that also includes the codices marked as mss. 25 and 23 with the Proper of the Time and ms. 19, a Sanctorale. The illustrative set of this series of codices is characterized by the drawing neatness of the leafy decorations, by the initials in bright and vivid colours, among which orange, yellow, blue and bordeaux are particularly prominent, and by the background fields filled with thin white-leaded ramages. There is a large number of inhabited initials with scenes connected to the text content or with figures of saints and prophets, but the master’s originality is due to the reuse of an early medieval invention, the kaleidoscopic initial, which is here re-proposed with Gothic realism and easy liveliness. Monsters, animals, birds, human figures are joined to give the initial a shape. Their hybrid nature, their dressing manner and gestures, but also the use of dressing animals with clergy clothes give the images a funny tone. Even though precise attributions are lacking, nevertheless it is plausible that the illuminator participated in the key-gothic renewal of the Friulian figurative culture that sprang thanks to the presence in Udine of Vitale da Bologna, in 1348 and 1349, who worked with his workshop at St. Francis’ and in the city’s cathedral. These were the last years of Bertrand of Saint Geniès’ [Bertrando di Saint Geniès] patriarchy: he came to Friuli from Toulouse in 1334, after a stay at Avignon, and was a key personality for the political, religious, economical and cultural turning point of this region.

 f. 95r, Gradual, 6th Feria after Quinquagesima, introit (detail, anthropo-zoomorphic initial A)

f. 95r, Gradual, 6th Feria after Quinquagesima, introit (detail, anthropo-zoomorphic initial A)

 Gradual, Sunday between Christmas octave, introit, f. 47r with kaleidoscopic initial D

Gradual, Sunday between Christmas octave, introit, f. 47r with kaleidoscopic initial D

 Gradual, St. Stephen’s mass, introit, f. 38v initial E with St. Stephen’s stoning

Gradual, St. Stephen’s mass, introit, f. 38v initial E with St. Stephen’s stoning

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