An Antiphonal from the parish at Santa Maria sopra Porta

About this Object

An Antiphonal for the period from the first Sunday of Advent to the end of Lent from the parish of Santa Maria sopra Porta in Florence. It includes two large historiated initials painted by Zanobbi Strozzi: King David in Prayer, and the Christ child. In addition, it includes 19 large decorated initials. Strozzi illustrated a series of choirbooks for the monastery of San Marco in Florence. A painter and an illuminator, he was a follower and sometime assistant of Fra Angelico.

This book still has its original binding of leather-backed wooden boards and runs to 214 folios (more than 400 pages) in length, representing the massive undertaking represented by a set of choirbooks that could cover the music of the Mass and Offices for the entire liturgical year. The sheer amount of vellum needed would require hundreds of animals, not to mention all of the human labor to prepare, stretch, and scrape the material before the scribes could even begin their work.[1]

Zanobi Strozzi came from a wealthy Florentine family. He was a close follower of Fra Angelico; according to Vasari he was Angelico's pupil, although there is no documented contact. He is documented mainly as a manuscript illuminator, but he was also a painter of panels. His work is often confused with that of Domenico di Michelino and the Master of the Buckingham Palace Madonna.

The only surviving signed panel painting is the 'Annunciation' in the National Gallery which bears a concealed signature (ZA / NOBI). Documented panel paintings include a lost altarpiece in the Chapel of St Agnes in Sant'Egidio (Santa Maria Nuova), Florence, and a funerary cross for San Marco, Florence. 'A Virgin and Child with Angels' (Florence, Museo di San Marco) and an 'Annunciation' (Philadelphia, Johnson Collection) are also attributed to him. He died in 1468 and was buried in Santa Maria Novella.[2] Compare his masterful historiated initials on pages 7 and 110 with the National Gallery's Annunciation panel in the viewer below


Listening to Renaissance Florence

As choirbooks, antiphonals played a central role in liturgical services throughout the calendar year. The video below, seeks to recapture the soundscape of fifteenth-century Florence through a special collaboration between Cut Circle and Stanford students. Gorgeous visual imagery and discussions of liturgy, book making, and vocal technique are interwoven with full-blooded performances of chant (anchored in the Antiphonal from the parish at Santa Maria sopra Porta), non-notated polyphony, motets, and rowdy carnival songs.[3]

Video courtesy of Cut Circle, featuring Jonas Budris (Tenor), Bradford Gleim (Baritone & Artistic Advisor), and Clare McNamara (Mezzo-Soprano).