Dominican nuns of Sankt Katharinenthal

Starting price
£ 7 000
Auction dateClassic
09.12.2020 00:00UTC +01:00
Event location
United Kingdom, London
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ID 470148
Lot 1 | Dominican nuns of Sankt Katharinenthal
Dominican nuns of Sankt Katharinenthal

St Catherine debating the Philosophers, Lake Constance, c.1320

ST CATHERINE DEBATING THE PAGAN PHILOSOPHERS, historiated initial 'A' on a leaf from an Antiphonal, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Lake Constance, Bodenseeraum, c.1320]

A magnificent unrecorded miniature from a monumental Antiphonal illuminated in the Bodensee region, likely made for the Dominican nuns at the convent of Sankt Katharinenthal.

166 x c.110mm (extending to c.160mm). The initial 'A' opening the Feast of Catherine of Alexandria, reverse with 3 fragmentary lines of text and music on a red stave (light smudging, some loss of pigment to the frame of the miniature, edge folded over). Mounted and framed.

Illumination: The expressive gesticulating figures, the vivid, fresh colours, and the bold compositional style is characteristic of early 14th-century Swiss illumination from the Bodensee. Two sister fragments survive: Historisches Museum des Kantons Thurgau T 9393 and T 9394 (an initial 'M' with the Annunciation and an initial 'Q' with the Death of the Virgin, both ex-Les Enluminures, Catalogue 3, 1994, nos 38a and 38b). Three further leaves were illuminated by the same artist or workshop: these are from the collection of the comte de Bastard d'Estang in the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris (AD 152G, PL 842-3, AD 150H, PL 51). The leaves in the d'Estang collection appeared in his 1848 catalogue and were then part of a complete, or at least more substantial, choirbook made for Cistercian use. All five fragments were exhibited in Paris in 1968 in 'L'Europe Gotique' and published by E. Beer, 'Ein Beitrag zur Buchmalerei des Bodenseeraumes', Zeitschrift für schweizerische Archäologie und Kunstgeschichte, 33 (1976), pp.250-67 (see also Buchmalerei im Bodenseeraum, 1997, nos. KE28a-b, 29a-c).

The cutting is also related in style to two miniatures depicting the Death of the Virgin and the Last Judgement, sold at Sotheby's, 7 July 2015, lot 20. The illumination was attributed to the workshop of the Dominican nuns at the convent of Sankt Katharinenthal on Lake Constance (see Buchmalerei im Bodenseeraum, 1997, nos. KE11, 11a-b). The present cutting must surely also be linked to the same convent: the miniature depicts the Emperor Maxentius summoning the best pagan philosophers and orators to dispute with Catherine, in the hope that they would refute her Christian arguments.

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