Digital Commonwealth

Antiphonal : in Latin

Item Information

Antiphonal : in Latin
Title (uniform):
The first of five antiphonals commissioned by the Benedictine monastery of San Sisto in Piacenza in the last quarter of the 15th century, this one in the year 1475. The others are: Berkeley, Bancroft Library of the University of California, UCB 059; La Spezia, Museo Civico Amedeo Lia, 586; Private collection; Private collection (sold Sotheby's London 1 December 1998, lot 99); and fragments of a fifth antiphonal in a private collection and New York, Morgan Library and Museum, M.184 (see Bollati, p. 96). The present antiphonal is described in the 16th-century San Sisto library inventory as "Antiphonarium notatum ab Adventus dominica prima usque ad dominicam Palmarum [numero] 1" (Bollati, pp. 41-43). Nine graduals were also commissioned by San Sisto in the latter quarter of the 15th century. The full set of 14 choirbooks remained in continuous use at the monastery for 300 years.
Don Nicholaus of the Cistercian Order
Francesco da Costello
Second Master of the San Sisto Choirbooks
Former owner:
Affaticati, Benedetto
Former owner:
Cavaleri, Michael
Former owner:
Cernuschi, Enrico
Catholic Church
Former owner:
Karl W. Hiersemann (Firm)
Former owner:
San Sisto (Church : Piacenza, Italy)
Former owner:
Art ancien S.A.
[ca. 1475]
Manuscripts, Latin (Medieval and modern)
Manuscripts, Medieval
Furniture (Binding)
Wooden boards (Binding)
Clasps (Binding)
Catches (Binding)
Gothic scripts
Antiphonaries (Service books)
Boston Public Library
Rare Books Department
Collection (local):
Medieval and Early Renaissance Manuscripts (Collection of Distinction)
ItalyEmilia-Romagna (region)Piacenza (province)Piacenza
158 leaves : parchment, ill. ; 610 x 420 (425 x 280) mm.
Terms of Use:
No known copyright restrictions.
No known restrictions on use.
Place of origin:
Notes (ownership):
Provenance: In 1810, when the Napoleonic decree suppressing religious orders reached the monastery, the set of 14 choirbooks to which the present manuscript belongs were hidden in the attic of the family home of a monk named Benedetto Affaticati. They were sold by one of his descendants in 1864 to private collector Michele Cavaleri. Cavaleri sold the manuscripts to Enrico Cernuschi, who transported the manuscripts to Paris, where they remained until his death in 1896. A small paper label in the upper left corner inside the front cover, possibly dating from this period, numbers this manuscript "6" (the same label is found in BPL MS pf Med. 97).
Notes (acquisition):
Immediate source of acquisition: Purchsed from L'Art Ancien in 1940.
Notes (citation):
Bond, W.H. Supplement to the Census of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts in the United States and Canada, p. 213
Bibliography: "Library notes: exhibition of illuminated manuscripts." More Books/Boston Public Library Quarterly XV (1940): 385; Bollati, Milvia. I corali benedettini di San Sisto a Piacenza. Bologna, 2011; Filippone Overty, Joanne. "Reconstructing the Monastic Choir Books of San Sisto in Piacenza." Rivista di Storia della Miniatura 14 (2010): 151-162; Secular/Sacred: 11th-16th-Century Works from the Boston Public Library and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Edited by Nancy Netzer. Chestnut Hill: Boston College, 2006. 27; Sutton, K. "The San Sisto Choirbooks." Christie's London, 12 November 2008, lots 38-46. Beyond Words: Illuminated Manuscripts in Boston Collections. Edited by Jeffrey Hambuger, et al. Chestnut Hill: Boston College, 2016. 225. See Bollati and Overty for additional, earlier bibliography.
In Latin.
Ms. codex.
Bibliographic record created by BPL staff based on description by Dr. Lisa Fagin Davis.
Origin: Written at the Benedictine monastery of San Sisto in Piacenza in the year 1475. One initial, on fol. 48, is signed "Laus deo. D. Nicholaus Mo. Ordinis Cist. F[initus?] die XVIII Novembris 1475" (i.e. Don Nicholaus of the Cistercian Order, 18 November 1475). A number of miniatures have been attributed to Francesco da Castello (fol. 1, 40v, 58v, 64v, 72v). Several miniatures had been previously attributed to Bartolomeo Gossi da Gallarate, but recently Luca Di Palma and Maria Bollati have concluded that he did not in fact contribute to this manuscript; Luca Di Palma has attributed the initials on fol. 41v, 46v, 50, and 54 to the Second Master of the San Sisto Choirbooks (private correspondence).
Notes (object):
Secundo folio: In illa die ...
Collation: Parchment, fol. 158 ; 1-12⁸ 13¹⁰⁻² 14-19⁸ 20⁶ (lacking conjoint bifolium, original folios 98 and 105) ; early arabic foliation, brown ink (not scribal hand), lower right rectos; precedes losses, so reaches 160 instead of 158.
Layout: Single column, five staves. Bounding lines in red, writing lines in light plummet or in blind. Gregorian chant in square notation on a four-line staff, C or G clef indicated.
Script: Written in a gothic rotunda in black ink with red rubrics.
Decoration: More than 150 one-line initials throughout in gold leaf and ink and colors, the work of multiple artists; fifteen one-staff high historiated initials (two-staves high on fol. 1) in colors on gold within leafy initials, that on fol. 48 signed "Laus deo. D. Nicholaus Mo. Ordinis Cist. F[initus?] die XVIII Novembris 1475" (i.e. Don Nicholaus of the Cistercian Order, 18 November 1475).
Binding: Later diced leather over original wooden boards, rebacked, with original brass bosses, cornerpieces, decorative hardware, and edge guards intact.
Table of Contents:
1. fol. 1: Annunciation (1st Sunday of Advent): the Virgin Mary seated on a canopied chair before a lectern, an open prayerbook on the surface, a cabinet below open to reveal a jar (?) within; at the left, the Angel Gabriel kneels before her. A distant rocky landscape is visible in the background. Full border of spiraling acanthus with a medallion in the lower center margin of an unidentified elderly bearded saint holding a blank banderole, perhaps an Old Testament prophet such as Isaiah, medallions of turbaned Saints with a blank banderoles (also probably Old Testament prophets) in the center of the right and left margins.
2. fol. 27v: St. Thomas Apostle, holding a book and palm frond (his office).
3. fol. 37: Benedictine monk at prayer (Christmas office).
4. fol. 38v: Christ-child at rest on a hillside (Christmas office).
5. fol. 40v: The Nativity (beginning of Christmas Matins): The Infant Christ lies in an open box-like cradle on the ground, flanked by the seated Virgin at left before the manger and Joseph seated behind and to the right, sleeping with his head resting on his hand. In the background, a donkey and bull lying on the ground, with a mountainous background.
6. fol. 41v: A turbaned Saint holding a blank banderole, presumably an Old Testament prophet (1st antiphon of Christmas Matins).
7. fol. 46v: Angel in flight holding a blank banderole (Christmas Lauds).
8. fol. 48: A second Nativity, signed by one Don Nicholaus (Christmas Vespers): The Infant Christ lies on a field of grass within a daub-and-wattle enclosure below the roof of an open-walled manger, a bull and horse lying behind. To the left, the standing Virgin, and, at the far left, Joseph sits and sleeps with his head on his hand (a perspective problem has led to Joseph appearing to float in front of the manger's supporting beam instead of what was probably the intent, to show him seated on the hillside behind). Behind the manger, a hilly background with various cities at the summits. This is the only known miniature by this artist, painted in a very different color palette and style from the other miniatures in the manuscript (see Bollati, p. 47).
9. fol. 50: A naked, youthful Christ in Majesty, standing against a heavenly blue and gold background, his right hand raised in blessing, his left holding an orb aloft (Christmas Compline).
10. fol. 51: St. Stephen (his office, Matins): Stephen stands in a green field surrounded by a daub-and-wattle fence, two cities visible on hillsides in the background, holding a book in his left hand, a palm frond in his right; a rock rests on his head, blood pouring down his hair.
11. fol. 54: St. Stephen (his office, Vespers): The Saint in profile holding a palm frond, a rock on his head, blood pouring down his hair, another rock on his shoulder.
12. fol. 55: St. John the Evangelist (his office): John stands on a road, holding a book. To the right, the road leads back to a small house in the background; to the left, up a hill to a city at the summit.
13. fol. 58v: The Slaughter of the Innocents (Feast of the Innocents): Herod sits on a throne at the left, gesturing towards a man who holds a bleeding infant by the foot in one hand and a raised knife in the other. A number of dismembered infants lie beneath his feet, and a crowd stands behind.
14. fol. 64v: The Circumcision (Feast of the Circumcision): Before an altar decorated with an image of God enthroned, the Virgin presents the naked Christ-child to St. Simeon, who holds a small pair of scissors for the circumcision. A crowd stands behind them.
15. fol. 72v: The Baptism of Christ (Epiphany): Christ, naked but for a translucent loincloth, stands at the left in a shallow stream as John the Baptist, at right, pours a small bowl of water over his head. The Holy Spirit descends from above as a dove. In the background, a tree-covered hillside and a walled city. The figure of Christ is anatomically disproportioned and somewhat awkward, particularly in the hips and lower body, suggesting that this may not have been the originally intended scene and that it was altered in the process of painting. There is no obvious evidence of overpainting, however.
Ms_pf_Med120_001 - Ms_pf_Med120_324
Call #:
RARE BKS MS pf Med. 120
M.Cab.2.51 (no longer used)