Easter: the Resurrection

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It is finally Easter! We celebrate the occasion with this incredibly lavish illuminated initial from a late 15th-century (or early 16th-century) Gradual made for the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli in Rome.

The grand illumination, marking the most important holiday for Christians, stands as the protagonist of the whole book. At the center of the letter, an R for Resurrection, Jesus stands atop his tomb while giving a sign of blessing and holding a banner. Below, four Roman soldiers awaken from sleep. Apart from the scene of  the Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian (seen through a glass cylinder on the left), the elaborate decorations all share a common inspiration by Roman-style frescoes: towards the end of the 15th century, in fact, artists started exploring the Domus Aurea (Golden House) of Nero, which had been newly discovered just next to the Colosseum. This inspired a rise in antique and classical motifs such as grotesques: the name itself derives from underground "grottoes" of the Domus. The rich golds, the detailed representations of cameos and gems; even the background, a strong vermillion, is embellished by fake cracks so to remind that solid red used as background in many Roman frescoes.

Folia Magazine wishes a happy Easter to anyone who celebrates it!


"Resurrection of Christ", historiated initial R from a Gradual, ms. Ludwig VI 3 (83.MH.86), f. 16r, late 15th or early 16th century, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

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