2 John. Animal initial with a bear and a griffon, from a monumental illuminated manuscript Bible, in Latin on parchment [France, last decades of the twelfth century]
2 John. Animal initial with a bear and a griffon, from a monumental illuminated manuscript Bible, in Latin on parchment [France, last decades of the twelfth century]
2 John. Animal initial with a bear and a griffon, from a monumental illuminated manuscript Bible, in Latin on parchment [France, last decades of the twelfth century]
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  • Load image into Gallery viewer, 2 John. Animal initial with a bear and a griffon, from a monumental illuminated manuscript Bible, in Latin on parchment [France, last decades of the twelfth century]

2 John. Animal initial with a bear and a griffon, from a monumental illuminated manuscript Bible, in Latin on parchment [France, last decades of the twelfth century]

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Large cutting, with a historiated initial 'S' (opening 'Senior delecte domine' Â the opening of 2 John from the N.T.) formed of blue and light brown acanthus leaves with scalloping white penwork, the upper compartment with a green-headed bear creature with an orange body biting the initial at his feet, the lower compartment with a white griffon-like creature with sprouts of simple acanthus leaves emerging form its mouth and the apex of its head, all on burnished gold grounds and within a thick blue frame heightened by blue penwork, simple initials in red or blue, rubrics in red, partly marked up for reading in red ink, 19 lines of an early gothic bookhand with red touching to capitals and fishtailing to ascenders, but with only occasional ligatures and biting curves and with a tall capital 'E' with a tongue found in other manuscripts of the period (cf. Clermond-Ferrand, Bibl. Mun. ms. 1: W. Cahn, Romanesque Manuscripts, 1982, no. 44, fig. 44, central France, third quarter of twelfth century; and no. 43, Moulins, Bibl. Mun. ms. 1, from Souvigny, late twelfth century), once laid down in an album and with remnants of paper on reverse, now loosely attached to nineteenth-century paper, slight discolouration to front, small cracks and chips to gold, else good condition, 157 x 130mm. The twelfth century saw the golden age of the development of the early gothic book, with the production of vast illuminated Biblical codices with numerous initials and miniatures, which form much of our impression of quintessentially medieval books. Any witness to this evolution in the book arts is of significant rarity now, and the use of gold in the initials here sets the parent codex up among the finest of its kind, paralleled only by manuscripts such as Tours, Bibl. Mun. ms. 193 (Tours, third quarter of twelfth century: W. Cahn, Romanesque Manuscripts, 1982, no. 26, illustrated in pl. II, and note also close comparisons there for the simple coloured acanthus leaves and bold blue frame).This initial is from a monumental Bible prepared for public reading, perhaps in an monastic community or church. The text here is from the First Epistle of John (6-13) and the Second Epistle of John (opening to ch. 4).