GHERARDUCCI, Don Silvestro dei
(b. 1339, Firenze, d. 1399, Firenze)

Gradual 2 for San Michele a Murano (Folio 44)

c. 1395
Tempera and gold on parchment, 580 x 400 mm
The Morgan Library and Museum, New York

According to Vasari, in the Camaldolese monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Florence there were twenty choir books written by a certain Don Jacopo and illustrated by Don Silvestro dei Gherarducci. He also points out that several other choir books by the same masters were in the library in the monastery of San Michele of the same order in Murano. Single illuminated pages representing a number of scenes from a large gradual by Don Silvestro have survived in various museums. Together with several other stylistically consistent historiated pages and with a considerable number of cut initials scattered in various museums, they formed the major portion of the illuminated decoration of two large graduals for San Michele a Murano. Fifty-one full pages and initials have been discovered so far that can now be firmly associated with the two San Michele a Murano graduals, Gradual 1 (The First Sunday of Advent to Passion Week) and Gradual 2 (Easter to the Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost).

The letter V of this richly decorated page encloses the Ascension of Christ. The apostles have gathered in a circle around the Virgin. Amazed by the apparition of Christ, they gaze up at him as he ascends to heaven. The apostles' emotional expressions and gestures contrast sharply to the Virgin's quiet demeanour. Don Silvestro's lively narration of the Ascension is a synthesis of two distinct pictorial traditions, documenting his artistic formation in Siena as well as his association with Orcagna and his circle, who dominated Florentine painting in the third quarter of the Trecento.

The initial V begins the introit to the Mass for the feast of Ascension.