John the evangelist holding up his letter on a scroll, in an initial on a leaf from a large and fine Bible, in Latin, illuminated manuscript on parchment
[Northern France (Paris), c. 1280-90]
Large leaf, with historiated initial 'S' (opening "Senior gaio karissimo ...", opening III John from the Canonical Epistles), in soft pink heightened with white penwork, enclosing a full-length portrait of John in a blue cloak, on orange-red tessellated ground within the initial and blue with white foliage overlaid outside it, enclosed within thin gold frame and with text border in blue and red-brown with animal mask, gold baubles and angular gold grounds, descending the entire length of the page and filling the space above and below the text column, one slightly smaller initial in blue containing sprays of coloured foliage, within similar frame and text borders, this enclosing a bearded animal-masked drollery, single red initial on reverse with contrasting penwork and text border of red and blue foliate shapes with scrolling penwork, running titles and versal initials in red and blue capitals, rubrics wanting but guide-text present in pale brown hairline script, double column of 41 lines, marginalia in red and blue triangle, modern pencil folio no. '455', a little inkburn causing small holes in places, slight thumbing at lower outer corner, else excellent condition, 300 by 210mm.
From an incomplete manuscript sold at Sotheby's, 5 December 1989, lot 79.
The art here is representative of the zenith of Parisian commercial Bible production in the thirteenth century. It was decorated by the Sainte-Chapelle group (see R. Branner, Manuscript Painting in Paris during the Reign of Saint Louis , 1977, pp. 236-39), named for a Gospel lectionary made c . 1260-70 and used in the Sainte-Chapelle (now at the BnF., ms. lat. 17,326), perhaps by a sub-group known as the 'Henry VIII' group, who were active c . 1280-90.