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The Virgin in the Sun: Music and Image for a Prayer Attributed to Sixtus IV

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2020

Bonnie J. Blackburn*
Wolfson College, Oxford


‘Salve, regina, mater misericordiae … ad te clamamus … ad te suspiramus’: when this lovely Marian antiphon is sung, whether by one person or many, it is intoned on behalf of all mankind. ‘Ave sanctissima Maria … libera me ab omni malo; ora pro peccato meo’: when this prayer is said, it is the individual who begs the Virgin's intercession, who pleads for her to free him from evil, who asks her to pray for his sins. Prayers in the first person singular, a direct address on the most personal level, I and thou, are usually private. It would seem surprising to find them set to music for several voices, and yet settings begin to appear towards the end of the fifteenth century. What does it mean to sing one of these prayers? For whom do the singers sing: each for himself? each for all the other singers? for the listeners?

Research Article
Copyright © Royal Musical Association, 1999

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I first became interested in motet settings of indulgenced prayers while reading the manuscript of Robert Snow's edition of Guatemala MS 4, then being prepared for the Monuments of Renaissance Music under my editorship, and subsequently published as A New-World Collection of Polyphony for Holy Week and the Salve Service: Guatemala City, Cathedral Archive, Music MS 4, ed. Robert J. Snow, Monuments of Renaissance Music, 9 (Chicago, 1996). This early seventeenth-century manuscript contains an anonymous setting of the prayer considered in this article. Professor Snow had found the text in a breviary of 1522 and collected references to a number of other motets with the same text. We puzzled over the meaning of ‘the sun’ in the rubric that accompanies this text, and when I was able to elucidate this enigmatic reference, Professor Snow, in an act of scholarly generosity for which I was most grateful, consented to let me use and develop his material. It is thus most fitting that I return it to him in this much expanded form, though alas too late for him to see it.Google Scholar

Portions of this paper were read at the Twenty-Third Conference on Medieval and Renaissance Music, Southampton, 5–9 July 1996, and the Sixty-Second Annual Meeting of the American Musicological Society, Baltimore, 7–10 November 1996. I owe thanks to Leofranc Holford-Strevens for reading and commenting on the draft with his usual erudition, and for help with the theological citations; to Barbara Haggh for ongoing discussions on liturgical matters; and to Jane Bernstein, Cathy Ann Elias, Murray Steib, Sean Gallagher and Bernadette Nelson for help in obtaining sources not available to me.Google Scholar

1 This is a question I consider in ‘For Whom do the Singers Sing?’, Early Music, 25 (1997), 593–609.Google Scholar

2 For a recent view, though one too narrowly focused on the papal chapel, see Cummings, Anthony M., ‘Toward an Interpretation of the Sixteenth-Century Motet’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 34 (1981), 4359. I consider different kinds of evidence and reach different conclusions in Music for Treviso Cathedral in the Late Sixteenth Century: A Reconstruction of the Lost Manuscripts 29 and 30, Royal Musical Association Monographs, 3 (London, 1987), 19–33.Google Scholar

3 Canon 911 of the Codex Juris Canonici (1917), quoted in Campbell, Joseph Edward, Indulgences: The Ordinary Power of Prelates Inferior to the Pope to Grant Indulgences: An Historical Synopsis and a Canonical Commentary (Ottawa, 1953), 3. This is, of course, the modern explanation. Eamon Duffy's rich and informative study of lay religion in England, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England c.1400–c.1580 (New Haven, 1992), includes an evaluation of the role of indulgences in popular piety; see esp. ch. 8, ‘Charms, Pardons, and Promises: Lay Piety and “Superstition” in the Primers'.Google Scholar

4 Les livres d'heures manuscrits de la Bibliothèque Nationale, 2 vols. (Paris, 1927), i, 249, 299, 336; ii, 7, 32, 167, 190, 254 (this last in Dutch).Google Scholar

5 Chicago, Newberry Library, MS 83, f. 45v. See Saenger, Paul, A Catalogue of the Pre-1500 Western Manuscript Books at the Newberry Library (Chicago, 1989), 156.Google Scholar

6 London, British Library, Add. MS 10826, f. 137v. Here the assurance is different: the suppliant is promised that for as many years as he says the prayer he will see the Virgin for as many days before his death ('Et quot annis dixerit totidem dies videbit virginem mariam ante mortem suam'). The same rubric, in French, is found in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Rawl. liturg. c. 13, f. 84v, a fifteenth-century book of hours of the use of Beauvais.Google Scholar

7 Hore in laudem beatissime virginis Marie (Paris: Guillermus Godard, [1523]), sig. R8: ‘alia oratio ad beatam virginem Mariam'; Home nostrae dominae secundum usum ecclesiae Romanae (c.1490), Zwickauer Facsimiledrucke, 22 (Zwickau, 1913), f. +7v: ‘Alia oratio ad beatam virginem Mariam'; florae Eboracenses (1536), Publications of the Surtees Society, 132 (Durham and London, 1920), 140; Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, MS lat. 1411, f. 27v (fifteenth-century, use of Rouen): ‘Devota oratio ad virginem Mariam'; Paris lat. 10551, f. 26 (fifteenth-century, use of Rennes): ‘Oratio'; Paris lat. 14830, f. 84v (fifteenth-century, use of Rouen): ‘Oratio de beata Maria'; Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Lat. liturg. f. 15, f. 39 (no rubric). There may be many others; I have not undertaken a systematic search.Google Scholar

8 To the settings given me by Robert Snow, I have added Segovia, Brussels 27511, the second Modena setting, the second Sankt Gallen setting, Turin, Animuccia, Gesualdo, Nola, Schaffen, Schiavetto, Scotto, Tejeda (kindly brought to my attention by Todd Borgerding), de Vento, and the settings with the text beginning ‘Ave domina sancta Maria'. A setting by Morales, apparently lost, is listed in the inventory of manuscripts in Tarazona cathedral; see Pedro Calahorra Martínez, ‘Los fondos musicales en el siglo XVI de la Catedral de Tarazona. I. Inventarios’, Nassarre: Revista aragonesa de musicología, 8 (1992), 956 (p. 15).Google Scholar

9 I use Patrick Macey's apt description of similar passages in Misericordias domini and O bone et dukissime Jesu; see his ‘Josquin, Good King René, and O bone et dukissime Jesu’, Hearing the Motet, ed. Dolores Pesce (New York, 1997), 213–42. I do not mean to suggest that the work is by Josquin; it is somewhat uneven.Google Scholar

10 So do Brussels 27511, the anonymous five-part setting, Agricola (in one voice), Ganis, Claudin and Verdelot (a4).Google Scholar

11 My discussion of the four- and five-part motets is limited to those I have seen. I have not been able to examine the motets by Lupino and Tejeda, nor the anonymous setting in Wroclaw I. F. 428.Google Scholar

12 Verdelot set a four-voice version of the text; the confusion may stem from this. Martin Picker has noted that the first nine bars of the motet appear literally at the beginning of the Credo; see The Chanson Albums of Marguerite of Austria (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1965), 110, n. 60. In addition, the motet from bar 50 to the end is quoted literally in the same movement from ‘descendit de celis’ to the end of the section.Google Scholar

14 Although Scotto seems to have taken his opening theme from Gombert's four-voice setting, which he had published two years earlier and again in the same year as his own publication of duos, 1541.Google Scholar

15 I owe thanks to Emma Kempson, at the time a graduate student at King's College London, for drawing my attention to this source when I read a version of this article in 1996. She presented her findings in a paper given at the Medieval and Renaissance Conference at York in July 1998. The chant is headed (f. 122) ‘Alia communis Antiphona de beata Virgine'. The style of the Leipzig setting is found in a number of late fifteenth-century German manuscripts; for a recent study, see Just, Martin, ‘Polyphony Based on Chant in a Late Fifteenth-Century German Manuscript’, Music in the German Renaissance: Sources, Styles, and Context, ed. John Kmetz (Cambridge, 1994), 129–51.Google Scholar

16 It has been edited by Walter Gerstenberg in Senfl's Sämtliche Werke and also Das Chorwerk, 62. The rhymed text (Chev. 11335), cast in the first person singular ('miserere mei'), was also set by Weerbeke. According to the inscription in the unique source, Munich 12, Senfl composed this work at the express wish of Duke William of Bavaria (see below, Appendix, section III). Although it is logical to suppose that many compositions in the Middle Ages and Renaissance were commissioned, we have little explicit evidence that this was so. It is quite likely that Wilhelm asked Senfl to place the ‘Ave sanctissima Maria’ prayer and melody in the tenor voice. Therefore, when this motet was sung by the Munich court chapel, the singers prayed on behalf of the duke.Google Scholar

17 The Leipzig setting is without signature, though B♭ is needed frequently in all voices (but not as many as the editor added – to every single B), and E♭ is marked twice in the bass. The 1509 Responsoria version, on F, has a B♭ signature. Isaac's motet is set a fifth higher, on C, as is Senfl's, but the Regensburg anonymous places his motet on F with B♭.Google Scholar

18 We tend to forget that chant was still being composed in the fifteenth century. Barbara Haggh's forthcoming edition of Dufay's chants for the Office of the Feast of the Recollectio written by his Cambrai colleague Gilles Carlier will be a salutary reminder. It is also likely that Dufay composed the music of a sequence performed at the consecration of the cathedral of Florence, Santa Maria del Fiore, in 1436, at the same time as his motet Nuperrosarum flores; the texts are closely related. See Wright, Craig, ‘Dufay's Nuper rosarum flores, King Solomon's Temple, and the Veneration of the Virgin’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 47 (1994), 395–441 (pp. 434–7).Google Scholar

19 Conversely, one probably Flemish composer, Ivo de Vento, has used the ‘southern’ version, copied into a German manuscript, Vienna 19189, of the late sixteenth century. He may have found the text in Italy, where he was sent to study by Duke Albrecht of Bavaria in the 1560s.Google Scholar

20 For comparison of variant textual readings of all the ‘Ave sanctissima Maria’ settings I mostly had to check the sources myself; the concept of a ‘critical edition’ often seems to be biased towards the music, and variants in the text are taken into account only exceptionally. Thus my investigation is incomplete in some cases because I have not seen some concordant versions and am dependent on the modern edition. Unfortunately, Joseph Schmidt-Görg's Gombert edition is entirely without critical notes.Google Scholar

21 Later I discovered that Sixten Ringbom, in a short note, had also recognized the purpose of this prayer and connected it with the iconography of the Virgin ‘in sole'; see his ‘Maria in sole and the Virgin of the Rosary’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 25 (1962), 326–30. He, however, takes the ‘strong’ form to be the original one, supposing that it was deliberately altered, for the weaker form ‘must have seemed acceptable even to the most ardent Maculists’ (p. 326).Google Scholar

22 Copie bullarum Concilij Basiliensis et Pape Sixti quarti in materiam Conceptions beatissime marie virginis Unacum duabus oratiunculis Sixti Pape quarti & Alexandri pape sexti de eadem Conceptione ad Mariam Virginem & sanctam Annam Pluribus indulgentijs dotatis. Copy in the Bodleian Library. The rubric reads: ‘Hec est vera oratio Sixti Pape quarti ad gloriosam Virginem Mariam Agnoscens eius mundam Concepcionem ad & propter quam tam magnas dedit indulgentias Videlicet Undecim Milia annorum earn devote dicenti & ex corde credenti Cui consonat Oratio Allexandri pape sexti.’ The prayer on St Anne is ‘Ave maria, gracia plena, dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus et benedicta sit Anna mater tua ex qua sine macula et peccato processisti virgo Maria. Ex te autem natus est hiesus cristus filius dei vivi. Amen.’ According to the rubric, Alexander VI conceded an indulgence of 10,000 years for mortal and 20,000 for venial sins for those saying this prayer ‘trina rice coram ymagine beatissime virginis Marie et Anne Matris eius'. There is an anonymous setting a4 of a variant of this text in Trent 91, ff. 197v–199, kindly brought to my attention by Robert Mitchell, and another setting (beginning ‘Ave gratia plena') by Verdelot; see A Gift of Madrigals and Motets, ed. H. Colin Slim, 2 vols. (Chicago, 1972), ii, 166–72. For the text of the Constitution Cum praeexcelsa, see Enchiridion symbolorum definitionum et declarationum de rebus fidei et morum, ed. Heinrich Denzinger, rev. Adolf Schönmetzer, S.J. (36th edn, Barcelona, 1976), no. 1400.Google Scholar

23 On this manuscript see now Lewis Lockwood, ‘Sources of Renaissance Polyphony from Cividale del Friuli: The Manuscripts 53 and 59 of the Museo Archeologico Nazionale’, Saggiatore musicale, 1 (1994), 249–314. For the date, see pp. 273–5.Google Scholar

24 I shall tread lightly on the theological argument, which has a vast bibliography. For an accessible summary, see Warner, Marina, Alone of All her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary (New-York, 1976), ch. 16. For the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Nancy Mayberry provides a useful overview in ‘The Controversy over the Immaculate Conception in Medieval and Renaissance Art, Literature, and Society’, Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 21 (1991), 207–24.Google Scholar

26 See the important collection of essays edited by Kathleen Ashley and Pamela Sheingorn, Interpreting Cultural Symbols: Saint Anne in Late Medieval Society (Athens, GA, and London, 1990).Google Scholar

27 See Johannes de Segovia, Historia gestorum generalis synodi Basiliensis, ed. Ernst Birk, Monumenta Conciliorum generalium seculi decimi quinti: Concilium Basileense scriptorum tomi tertii pars prior (Vienna, 1886), ii, 362–81, which includes the complete text of the Office (by Johannes de Segovia himself).Google Scholar

28 It was published in Rome by Uldaricus Gallus in 1477; the edition includes the Constitution.Google Scholar

29 Busti's Office was published several times, by itself and in his Mariale, of which there are a number of editions. It has been reprinted in Acta Ordinis Fratrum Minorum Immaculatam Conceplionem B.M.V. concernentia (Quaracchi, 1904), 1736. Bernardino de’ Busti, born in Milan c.1450, at first studied law at the University of Pavia, then joined the Franciscans between 1475 and 1476.Google Scholar

He is the author of several other Offices as well (Officium et Missa gloriosissimi Nominis Iesu, Officium at Missa degaudiis Bealae Mariae Virginis, Officium et Missa Sanctae Cruris et Passionis Domini, Officium le planctu Beatae Mariae Virginis). He died between 1513 and 1515. On his life and works, see the Dizionario biografico degli italiani, xv (Rome, 1972), 593–5.Google Scholar

30 This despite the best efforts of the Franciscan friars of Sant'Angelo in Milan, supported by Duke Gian Galeazzo Sforza (under the regency of his mother Bona), who wrote to his ambassador in Rome on 15 January 1481 (minute in Milan, Archivio di Stato, Sforzesco 88): ‘Ambassadori. Li venerabili religiosi de Santo Angelo ordinis minorum apresso questa nostra città como sapeti: hano grandissimo desiderio che la Santita de nostro Signore conceda qualche indulgentia celebrantibus officium conceptionis de la nostra donna composito novamente per frate Berardino [sic] da Busto del loro ordine. Qual loro desiderio essendo pio et honesto per cedere tutto ad augumento del culto de la predetta virgine, siamo contend et vi imponemo ad supplicare a nostro signore che ad prece nostre, et per agiungere questo altro signo de riverentia al nome de la nostra donna, voglia concedcre lo indulto che per la inclusa copia de breve se contiene. Qual obtenuto senza dimora ne mandareti. Datum Mediolani 15 Januarij 1481. Joannesgaleaz Maria Sfortia vicecomes: Dux Mediolani etc.’ That the duke felt entitled to make such a request suggests the origin of many indulgences at the request of individuals, whether noble or clerical. Papal (or episcopal) letters granting permission may not have been recorded in the same registers with bulls and other official pronouncements.Google Scholar

31 Perhaps the safer course! Bernardino Zambotti reports as follows: ‘A dì dicto [1 April 1478]. Questa quadragesima passata li predicatori, sì de San Francesco como de San Domenego, haveano disputati in pergolo se la Verzene Maria hera sta’ conceputa in pecato originale, per il che la Kxcellentia del duca nostro fece convocare molti religiosi valenthomini in la camera soa, e altri doctori e scholari, e volse oldire le opinione e raxone de Scotto e de Sancto Thomaxo, e fu facta grande disputa. E infine fu approbata la opinione de l'una parte e de l'altra, e concluso che se pol tenire zenza peccato quella opinione ce pare; ma che, per alchuni Brevi ge sono, quelli che teneno concepta zenza peccato originale hanno certe indulgentie da più Papi'; Diario ferrarese dall'anno 1476 sino al 1504, ed. Giuseppe Pardi, Rerum italicarum scriptores, new edn, xiv, pt 7 (Bologna, 1934), 47.Google Scholar

32 Wenceslaus Sebastian, ‘The Controversy over the Immaculate Conception from after Scotus to the End of the Eighteenth Century’, The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, ed. Edward Dennis O'Connor (Notre Dame, IN, 1958), 228–11.Google Scholar

33 For the text of Grave nimis, see Enchiridion symbolorum, nos. 1425–6.Google Scholar

34 Bullarium Franciscanum continens Constitutiones Epistolas diplomata Romani Pontificis Sixti IV ad tres ordines S. P. N. Francisci spectantia, NS 3 (1471–84) (Quaracchi, 1949), no. 1264. Women were normally excluded, it says, ‘ut omnia officia in antedicta capella sine strepitu mulierum quietius et devotius peragantur'. The chapel no longer exists in St Peter's.Google Scholar

35 Bullarum diplomatum et privilegiorum sanctorum romanorum pontificum Taurinensis editio, ed. Luigi Tomassetti, v (Turin, 1860). The Bull dates from May 1479.Google Scholar

36 Jacopo Gherardi, Diario Romano, ed. Enrico Carusi, Rerum italicarum scriptores, xxiii/3 (Città di Castello, 1904), 57. On 28 July 1481 he notes that Sixtus, recovered from an illness, went out for the first time in public to Santa Maria del Popolo to give thanks to the Virgin, detouring to the chapel called ‘de Virtute’, ‘of which many miracles are related now for the first time’ (p. 62). Several fifteenth-century woodcuts giving the prayer ‘Ave sanctissima Maria’ and indulgence (both in German) say that Sixtus composed it in honour of the Virgin during a sickness ('weliches gebett er in ainer Kranckhait zu lob und ere der Junckfrowen marie gemacht und bestattiget hat'). See Schreiber, Wilhelm Ludwig, Manuel de l'amateur de la gravure sur bois et sur métal au XVe siècle, i (Berlin, 1891), 306, no. 1031.Google Scholar

37 'Tam impense autem ipsam beatissimam Virginem excoluit, ut omnes eius dies festos, atque profestos observari et celebrari iusserit, cuius ante imaginem ita intentis, et mente et oculis orare solitus erat, ut horae spatio nunquam connivere sit visus'; Sigismondo dei Conti da Foligno, Le storie de'suoi tempi dal 1475 al 1510 (Rome, 1883), 205.Google Scholar

38 Bernardino de’ Busti, in the work cited in the following note, claimed that a marble plaque in St John Lateran recorded an indulgence of 80,000 years for the prayer ‘Domine Jesu Christe pater dulcissime rogo te’ (f. 131v).Google Scholar

39 'In hoc libro ponuntur multe orationes a summis pontificibus diversis indulgentijs privilegiate. Que licet ut ita dicam sine veri preiudicio essent milies revocate: vel in futurum revocarentur: tamen propter eorum mirabilem continentiam non debent dimitti. Quia illas devote dicentes multas gratias a deo impetrabunt'; Bernardino de’ Busti, Thesaurus spiritualis cum quamplurimis alijs odditis noviler impressus ([Lyons]: Nicolaus Wolff, 1500), f. 50v. Copy in the Library of Congress. Various versions of this compendium were printed between 1488 and 1525. Other influential contemporaneous books of prayers were Paradisus anime or Hortulus anime, of which there are many editions, and Nicolaus Salicetus, Liber meditationum ac orationum devotarum: Qui Anihidotarius anime dicitur (Paris: Petrus Le Dru, 1502, and other editions).Google Scholar

40 See Enchiridion indulgentiarum normae et concessions (3rd edn, Vatican City, 1986).Google Scholar

41 Presumably Eugene IV. Thesaurus spiritualis, f. 140: ‘Dominus iohannes papa duodecimus composuit infrascriptam salutationem: et dedit omnibus devote earn dicentibus coram sudario genibus flexis decern milia dierum de vera indulgentia. Item papa Eugenius concessit sex milia annorum de vera indulgentia dicentibus predictam salutationem cum oratione.’ On musical settings of one of the most popular texts on Veronica's veil or vernicle, the sequence ‘Salve sancta facies nostri redemptoris’, see Brown, Howard Mayer, ‘On Veronica and Josquin’, New Perspectives on Music: Essays in Honor of Eileen Southern, ed. Josephine Wright with Samuel A. Floyd (Warren, MI, 1992), 4961.Google Scholar

42 'Omnibus fidelibus bene confessis et contritis hanc orationem dicentibus ante sudarium conceduntur quinque anni de indulgentia pro qualibet sice’ (f. 36v).Google Scholar

43 Busti specifies 12,000 years but remarks that some say 15,000 years: ‘Sixtus papa quartus concessit cuilibet devote dicenti infrascriptam orationem duodecim: vel secundum aliquos quindecim milia annorum de vera indulgentia pro qualibet vice. Ave Maria sanctissima mater dei …’ (Thesaurus spiritualis, f. 114). British Library, Add. MS 38124, f. 285v (late fifteenth-century Italian hours, which dates the indulgence in the ninth year of his pontificate, 1480), also says 12,000 years.Google Scholar

44 An excellent discussion of this topic is Sixten Ringbom, Icon to Narrative: The Rise of the Dramatic Close-Up in 15th-Century Devotional Painting (Åbo, 1965), 2330.Google Scholar

45 Quoted ibid., 1213.Google Scholar

46 Aquinas, Thomas, In IV libros sententiarum, lib. 3, dist. 9, q. 1, a. 2, sol. 2, ad 3. Leofranc Holford-Strevens kindly tracked down this quotation and translated it.Google Scholar

47 The distinction between corporeal and spiritual vision goes back to St Augustine, who placed the highest level of vision as intellectual vision, that is, of abstract entities. Similar distinctions were made between oral and silent prayer: Nicholas of Lyra, in the mid-fourteenth century, suggested that if vocal prayers were found distracting, the worshipper should pray mentally ('orare Deum affectibus mentis'), and a number of fifteenth-century writers counsel the same. See Saenger, Paul, ‘Books of Hours and the Reading Habits of the Later Middle Ages’, Scrittura e civiltà, 9 (1985), 239–69 (pp. 243–6). See also the last chapter of Saenger, Space between Words: The Origins of Silent Reading (Stanford, 1997).Google Scholar

48 For an example, see Blackburn, ‘For Whom do the Singers Sing?’, 593.Google Scholar

49 London, British Library, Add. MS 35313, f. 237. This is a late fifteenth-century medium-sized book of hours on vellum, with illuminations in the style of the Ghent–Bruges school, similar to those in the Grimani Breviary. Sixtus’ prayer, at the end of the manuscript, is a later addition, but not much later: the illumination and writing are in the same style as the rest of the book.Google Scholar

50 Even Victor Leroquais, in his indispensable work on books of hours, Les livres d'heures, i, 336, added a ‘sic’ after this phrase.Google Scholar

51 The woodcut is pasted on f. 13v of Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodl. 113, an early fifteenth-century Sarum book of hours, written in England. The version of the text follows the ‘northern’ variant.Google Scholar

52 On this and similar representations, see Dodgson, Campbell, ‘English Devotional Woodcuts of the Late Fifteenth Century, with Special Reference to Those in the Bodleian Library’, Walpole Society, 17 (1928–9), 95–108 (pp. 103–4). Tucked into the four corners of the image are the instruments of the Passion. The woodcut is no. 1053 in Schreiber, Manuel de l'amateur, i, which also catalogues many fifteenth-century woodcuts of the Virgin in a glory. No. 1047 has the prayer in Latin, nos. 1031 and 1078a in German; no. 1107 gives both Latin and German texts.Google Scholar

53 The influential treatise by Francisco Pacheco, Arte de la pintura, completed in 1638 (ed. Francisco Javier Sanchez Canton, Madrid, 1956), takes note of the common practice of portraying the Virgin with the Child; but he prefers the version without Child, as shown in the medals Leo X blessed for the Franciscan Order, ‘granting them many graces and indulgences’ (ii, 209). The Virgin is to be painted as described in the Apocalypse, but as a young woman of 12–13 years of age, with beautiful and grave eyes, a perfect mouth and nose, rosy cheeks, and long golden hair; she is to wear a white tunic with a blue mantle and be ‘clothed in sun, an oval sun of ochre and white, which circles the whole figure'; a crown of 12 stars appears above the imperial crown on her head, and at her feet both a whole moon, transparent, and a half moon with the points downward (ibid., 210–11).Google Scholar

54 See the pioneering study by Mirella Levi D'Ancona, The Iconography of the Immaculate Conception in the Middle Ages and Early Renaissance (New York, 1957), who traces no fewer than 18 iconographic themes, many of which can be identified as ‘immaculist’ only from the context of the text they are meant to illustrate. Johannes Molanus, in his De historia ss. imaginum et picturarum pro vero earum usu contra abusus libri IV (Louvain, 1594), was scathing in his denunciation of this iconography: conception by means of the kiss ‘fabulosum est et obscurum quorundam figmentum’ (f. 164v). He preferred to see the Immaculate Virgin as the Beloved in the Song of Songs, surrounded by ‘sol, stella, Iuna, porta coeli, lilium inter spinas, speculum sine macula, hortus condusus, fons signatus, civitas dei’ and the like, and with the inscription ‘Tota pulchra es arnica mea, et macula non est in te: electa ut sol: pulchra ut luna: stella maris: porta coeli: sicut lilium inter spinas, etc.’ (ibid., f. 165). This iconography appears in the superius of Pierre de la Rue's Missa Conceptio tua in Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale, MS 15075, f. 1v.Google Scholar

55 The iconography was not new; it has been traced back to the thirteenth century, but it was only one of many up to the end of the fifteenth century. On the early history of the image, see Ewald M. Vetter, ‘Virgo in sole’, Festschrift fürJohannes Vincke, i (Madrid, 1963), 367–118.Google Scholar

56 There are at least two by Israhel van Meckenhem, with Child, with the prayer and the indulgence. See The Illustrated Bartsch, ix: Early German Artists: Israhel van Meckenhem, ed. Fritz Koreny (New York, 1981), 52, and xxiii: German and Netherlandish Masters of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries, ed. Martin Wolff (New York, 1985), 35.Google Scholar

57 See Heitz, Paul, Italienische Einblattdrucke in den Sammlungen Modena, Oxford, Paris, Pavia, Prag, Prato: Dritter Teil (Strasbourg, 1934), no. 43.Google Scholar

58 Description in Lorne Campbell, The Fifteenth Century Netherlands Schools, National Gallery Catalogues (London, 1998), 240–7, with reproduction. Campbell believes that the outer frame, with shutters, belonged originally to a painting of a Virgo in sole (p. 246). It was this painting that first drew Sixten Ringbom's attention to the ‘Ave sanctissima Maria’ prayer (see above, n. 21). He points out that although the prayer is on the Immaculate Conception, the image itself reflects the devotion to the rosary, since the Child is wearing a long string of coral beads and the Virgin is not ‘in sole'.Google Scholar

59 For a reproduction in colour see Blackburn, ‘For Whom do the Singers Sing?’, 596–7.Google Scholar

60 La Rue, moreover, is the author of a Missa Conceptio tua, with a head-motif taken from the antiphon for the Magnificat in the version of the Conception Office based on that of the Nativity, and a Missa de Sancta Anna, on an unidentified cantus firmus. He also composed a number of other Marian Masses.Google Scholar

61 Pierre de la Rue's Missa Conceptio tua is illustrated with much more pointed theological statements in several manuscripts of the Alamire workshop; I shall report on these elsewhere.Google Scholar