The Getty Museum Announces Gift of Rare Illuminated Manuscript Leaves

image005.pngLos Angeles -The J. Paul Getty Museum announced today the gift of six rare Italian manuscript illuminations from collectors James E. and Elizabeth J. Ferrell. The donation has been made in Elizabeth’s name. The generous donation comprises large historiated initials from a group of twenty known leaves originally from a choir book made around 1400 for the Carthusian monastery of Santo Spirito in Farneta (Lucca), Italy. The book was commissioned by Niccolò di Lazzara, the archbishop of Lucca.
           
“Jim and Zibbie Ferrell have been longtime supporters of the Museum, and we are deeply grateful for this important gift,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “Over the past two decades, they have been very generous and enthusiastic lenders of manuscripts and other works from their collection to exhibitions at both the Getty Center and Getty Villa. A number of their objects are included in the reinstallation of the Villa that will be completed in April. The gift of these six spectacular objects assures Jim and Zibbie a permanent place in the growth and enhancement of our manuscripts collection, and in particular adds greatly to our representation of fourteenth-century art from Central Italy.”
           
The Ferrell’s have been involved with the Museum’s manuscripts department for almost twenty years, frequently lending works from their collection and supporting exhibitions and scholarly projects. This is their first gift of works of art to the Getty. The leaves are from a gradual, a choir book that contains the sung portions of the Mass. The vibrant illuminations were painted by Niccolò da Bologna, known for his expressive figures and crowded, action-filled narrative scenes. The subjects featured within the historiated initials relate to important feast days of the church, including the Trinity, the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, and several related to individual saints (including two scenes of Saint Paul’s martyrdom, a stunning image of Saint Mary Magdalene’s ascent into Heaven, and one with the Twelve Apostles).
           
“Niccolò da Bologna was the most prolific Bolognese illuminator of the late fourteenth century, and the Getty already owns two exceptional examples of his work,” says Elizabeth Morrison, senior curator in the Department of Manuscripts. “Each of the initials demonstrates Niccolò’s ability to render figures with a liveliness that seems to allow them to leap off the page. He is an artist whose rich and varied oeuvre deserves to be represented through multiple examples.”
           
The six initials will make their debut in the upcoming exhibition, Artful Words: Calligraphy in Illuminated Manuscripts on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum from December 18, 2018 through April 7, 2019. Learn more about this important donation and the work of Niccolò da Bologna on the Getty Iris.

Image: Initial P: The Nativity (detail), about 1392-1402, Niccolò da Bologna, from the Gradual of Niccolò di Lazzara for Santo Spirito in Farneta (Lucca). Tempera colors and gold leaf on parchment, 7 ½ x 6 15/16 in. Private collection.

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