GHERARDO DI GIOVANNI DEL FORA (Florentine, 1445-1497) and
MONTE DI GIOVANNI DEL FORA (Florentine, 1448-1533)
On vellum, 20 ¾ x 16 inches (530x407mm)
Historiated initial “E” forming the beginning of “Exultate” on a leaf from the beginning of the 80th Psalm in a Choir Psalter, in Latin [Italy (Florence), c.1480-90]
and an inner border for the first Nocturne at Matins on Fridays, 14 lines,
The meticulously drawn figure of King David raising his hands in praise, and the finely modelled face with furrowed features and hair formed of single hair strokes is close to the work of the brothers Gherardo di Giovanni and Monte di Giovanni del Fora, celebrated artists and miniatures who operated a joint workshop in Florence in the last quarter of the fifteenth century. In some manuscripts the two divided their efforts, with Gherardo executing the illustration and Monte the decoration, as in the contemporary Hours of Isabella d’Este (sold, Sotheby’s, London, Dec. 5, 2012, lot 23).
Like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, Gherardo and Monte were students of the master painter Domenico Ghirlandaio, and they grew to dominate the artistic output of Florence in the second half of the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. Alongside Attavante di Attavanti and Francesco Antonio del Cherico, the brothers were the most significant miniaturists in Florence during the Renaissance. Gherardo was a humanist in his own right, a lover of music, learned in Latin literature and an intimate friend of Leonardo da Vinci.
The present sheet belonged to a known Choir Psalter, long ago dispersed, that has traditionally been attributed to Gherardo and Monte. Other leaves can be identified with some confidence: Psalm 1, David kneeling before God, in a landscape (Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, no.2719; see P. Wescher, Beschreibendes Verzeichnis der Miniaturen, 1931, p.99); Psalm 38, David raising his hands (Baer, Lagerkatalog 750, 1930, no.795); Psalm 52, The Fool (sold, Sotheby’s, London, July 8, 2014, lot 36; Psalm 68, Man of Sorrows (Marczell de Nemes, Budapest, collection, sold by Mensing in Amsterdam, 13 Nov. 1928, lot 106); Psalm 80, the present leaf; and Psalm 97, Monks Singing (sold, Sotheby’s, London, 18 June 2002, lot 15); only Psalms 26 and 109 are unidentified, but one of them may be the leaf described in the Mettler sale by Muller, Amsterdam, 22 Nov. 1929, lot 87.