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Master of the Cypresses

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Historiated Initial from a Gradual

by Master of the Cypresses, circa 1430–1440

Tempera colors, gold leaf, and ink
Leaf: 36 × 31.5 cm (14 3/16 × 12 3/8 in)

At the core of this manuscript leaf is an ornate decorative initial, a lavish letter "K" that serves as a visual ode to the virtue of Caritas, or love. The illustration depicts Charity as a richly attired woman, symbolizing the divine nature of God's love. The initial is intricately adorned with elaborate patterns and flourishes, a hallmark of the style associated with the Master of the Cypresses (active in the 1430s), an artist renowned for ornate design.

Believed to be the work of Pedro de Toledo (active in 1434), who was documented as an artist at Seville Cathedral during the 1430s, de Toledo was bestowed the title of "Master" by art historian Diego Angulo Íñiguez (1901–1986) in 1428.

Set against a deep blue backdrop, the letter "K" gleams resplendently in gold, with its intricate curves and lines meticulously rendered. Within the letter, two figures locked in an intimate embrace symbolize profound love and unwavering devotion. Caritas, or Charity, holding a crucifix in her right hand, tenderly extends a singular gold coin to the beggar before her. The intersecting geometric lines elegantly connect three essential elements of the Trinity: Charity's heart, the beggar's staff, and Christ's wound, symbolizing divine salvation through God's boundless charity.

J. Paul Getty Museum

15th century