The Fool Feasting, historiated initial on a vellum leaf from a Choir Psalter, in Latin [Italy (Florence), c.1480-1500]

NICCOLO Antonio di


Size: 540x390mm, with a large initial 'D' and a full border for Psalm 52 'Dixit insipiens …', the first psalm sung at Matins on Wednesdays, 15 lines, 380x240mm, medieval or early modern foliation '69' in red ink, the verso with an illuminated foliage initial to Psalm 53, some smudging, including head of the Fool, and with some flaking of gold and pigments, in some areas the leaf with a somewhat bobbled texture due to having previously been stuck to its mount.

A fascinating depiction of the Feasting Fool, at table with children teasing him. This leaf was painted by ANTONIO DI NICCOLÒ (1445-1527) whose sculptural treatment of his figures is reminiscent of the work of Andrea del Verrocchio and Antonio del Pollaiuolo. Gaudenz Freuler noted the close relationship with a Gradual in Lucca in the later style of this artist (Bibl. Statale, ms.2676, f.83v; see A. Garzelli, Miniatura Fiorentina, II, fig.631) which also depicts a Fool being teased by children of different ages. The iconography of the Feasting Fool defies easy explanation, although in 13th-century Bibles and Psalters Psalm 52 often shows the fool eating a loaf of bread, so perhaps this is the ultimate inspiration.

Provenance: probably from the collection of John Frederick Lewis (1860-1932) of Philadelphia, by descent to Betty C. Lewis, much of the collection is now at the Free Library, Philadelphia.

Stock Code: 221219

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