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Re-Inventing Traditions

On the Transmission of Artistic Patterns in Late Medieval Manuscript Illumination


Edited By Joris Corin Heyder and Christine Seidel

The volume comprises 16 papers given at the conference Re-Inventing Traditions held in Berlin in 2012. It negotiates the question of the transmission of artistic patterns in late medieval manuscript illumination. The model as such is often regarded as a mere working tool but recently the conditions of its creation and transformation have been discovered as a field of research. Among the central themes of these essays are textual tradition, workshop methods and the development and changeability of artistic models throughout different media and in various European regions.
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Sano di Pietro and the ‘Illustrated Initial’: Maria Ferroni


Maria Ferroni

Sano di Pietro and the ‘Illustrated Initial’


The paper focuses on a set of illuminated initials painted by Sano di Pietro in the Antiphonary n. 562 of the Civic Medieval Museum of Bologna, formerly part of the choir library in the Olivetan monastery of San Michele in Bosco. Iconographically conservative, the image finds its place in a rectangular and monumental space – similar to a piece of a fresco painting drawn from the wall to the page – magnificently bordered by a three-dimensional frame where the initials are included as little gold letters. This paper discusses the innovative nature of this relationship between image and initial, proposes possible reasons for the painter’s choice and contextualises his contribution within the set of choir books.


Sano di Pietro, born in Siena in 1405 and died in his city in 1481,1 was one of the most famous and active painters of his time. Probably a pupil of Sassetta,2 he managed a ← 105 | 106 → large and efficient workshop for several decades, able to satisfy a huge number of requests from laymen and religious patrons. This is demonstrated by his production of great altarpieces for churches, convents and confraternities, frescoes in the Palazzo Pubblico of Siena and devotional panel paintings representing Sano’s standard image of the Madonna and Child, now spread in museums and collections all over the world.3

A few centuries later, he was at the center of the...

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