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The Crucifixion & the Eclipse : Follower of Maître d'Étienne Poncher - Cutting from Pontifical (1546




Follower of the Maître d’Étienne Poncher- Cutting from a Pontifical (1546)


France, 1546 (180 x 125 mm). Latin. Single leaf, cutting. 19 lines of script with characteristics of Gothic and Humanist. One 3-line decorated initial. Blue and red rubricated letters alternating. Ruled in pink. Illumination showing crucifixion of Christ; framed in architectural styling, with two putti holding a date (1546).


Some surface damage from earlier mounting where paper has adhered to parchment. Pigment of 3-line initial has suffered flaking from mounting.

Text: Performed liturgy of the Ordinary Mass from “Per omnia secula seculorum”; “Vere dignum” and the Sanctus /

A beautiful illustration of the Crucifixion of Christ, suffering the misguided attempts of a (likely) Victorian admirer of the Medieval. The popular pastime of carefully cutting scenes from medieval manuscripts in the 19th century and reframing them for their own society’s ideas of beauty and importance has claimed many important works, including this one.


This scene was cut from a Pontifical, illustrated in the style of the Maître d’Étienne Poncher (active 1490-1510), so called for his work on books for the Bishop of Paris, Étienne Poncher.


The use of gold in this illustration performs in two ways: It highlights the holy— Jesus’ nimb, the halos of the three Marys, the frame of the scene. It also creates a dynamic and realistic quality to the wood of the cross and to the folds of the garments as well as adding shine to the stars in the sky and the sun. Time often stacks on top of itself in medieval illuminations, demonstrated here by the presence of the sun as well as the presence of the eclipsed (and unnaturally backwards) black crescent moon. Jesus’ wounds are bloodied at his stigmatae and at the hole punctured by the lance of Longinus. While the garments of the three Marys receive the more attention by the illustrator than their faces, it is the tiny face of Jesus that has received the most detail and the most painstakingly minute brush strokes to render his expression. Atop the cross has been nailed a plaque: INRI, Iesu Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum.


The later Medieval play with depth of field is at work here, as we see the bare-trodden grassy ground and a blue background fading into the dark-eclipsed sky.


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