Splendors of the Serenissima in a Digital Age: The Master of the Murano Gradual Reconsidered

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Manuscript Studies
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Venetian renaissance art
Camaldolese order
Italian manuscript illumination
manuscript studies
Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque Art and Architecture
Italian Language and Literature
Medieval Studies
Renaissance Studies
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The Master of the Murano Gradual is one of the most enigmatic illuminators working in early fifteenth-century Venice. The eponymous choir books were commissioned by the Camaldolese monastery of San Mattia a Murano and today comprise a single intact volume in the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin (MS 78 F.1) and about fifty historiated initials dispersed in twenty-five public and private collections in Europe and the United States. The fragmentary nature of the overall corpus is a central challenge to studying the artist and to understanding the contours of the workshop. This article provides a reassessment of the corpus of work attributed to the Murano Master—including an appendix with provenances of the whereabouts of the series—and makes a case for future collaborations that can build upon digitization efforts that make the fragments available online and upon recent technical analysis into the pigments used by the illuminators. The methodological approach of the authors has been twofold. Firstly, to study each of the fragments and manuscripts in person, and to locate digital assets for as many works as possible with the aim of creating an eventual website or online repository for scholars to consult. Secondly, to investigate codicological features of the individual fragments that have been hitherto overlooked, including the measurement of musical stave heights or blind-ruled lines for song, and the possible relationship between decorated and filigree letters to over one-hundred cuttings with decorated letters that have also been associated with the San Mattia series. Finally, the study also clarifies the dating of the Murano choir books, which were most likely produced in the 1420s.

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Fall 2021
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