The three miniatures chosen to document the iconographic subject of the Adoration of the Magi are all conserved in the Archivio Storico Civico e Biblioteca Trivulziana. Very striking is the imposing parchment manuscript in Gothic lettering and neume musical notation, containing a Gradual for the proprium of the mass, according to the Ambrosian rite. The volume’s dimensions confirm that it was used for singing by the monastery choir during the liturgy. The coats-of-arms and references to Olivetan iconography suggest that the codex was originally created for the liturgical requirements of the church of San Vittore al Corpo in Milan, where it remained until 1874. In 1875 it was purchased by the Museo Archeologico Milanese di Brera and in 1906 it entered the collection of the Museo Artistico Municipale, until in 1961 it was transferred to the Biblioteca Trivulziana.

The decoration of the manuscript has been linked to the later work of the anonymous Maestro B.F., a very active Lombard miniaturist, who most likely worked on this and on other choir books, in the years immediately following the establishment of the Olivetan monks at San Vittore (post-1542). His hand can be seen in the scene of the Adoration of the Magi, which can be found inside the initial capital letter ‘C’ on the front of sheet 65.

Beside the choir book are two initials from the end of the 15th century, which were cut out, centuries ago, from dismantled liturgical manuscripts. They bear witness to the persistence of the iconographic theme of the Adoration of the Magi in books produced for ecclesiastical use. Both cuttings are part of a large but heterogeneous collection of parchment and paper material which, from the Civic Art Museums of the Municipality of Milan, entered the collections of the Biblioteca Trivulziana in 1961. The first cutting, probably originating from the Lombardy-Venice area towards the last quarter of the 15th century, shows the Gospel scene framed within the historiated initial ‘A’, on a ground of gold leaf. The second cutting, where the iconographic topos is in the initial ‘E’, has been recently attributed to the Maestro dei Graduali di San Salvatore a Pavia [1], an anonymous miniaturist in the Pavia and Lombardy area between the end of the fifteenth and the early years of the sixteenth centuries. The monumental figures, the vivid colour palette and the painterly attention to portraying landscapes and buildings are the signature of his style.

[1] L. Di Palma Il Fondo Pergamene sciolte della Biblioteca Trivulziana di Milano: le miniature lombarde, tesi di laurea in Archeologia e Storia dell’Arte, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore di Milano, a.a. 2014-2015 (relatore: Milvia Bollati), pp. 171-173.

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