12.9 x 12.5 cm (5 1/8 x 4 7/8 inches)
Mary B. Jackson Fund
In many cultures and throughout the ages, gold has signaled the preciousness and importance of the objects it adorns. In the late Middle Ages, the heyday of manuscript decoration in Europe, gold leaf was often abundantly applied to borders and illuminated initials such as the one on the left. A fragment cut from a large antiphonary, or book of liturgical music, it depicts Saint Nicholas within the capital letter C.
Miniature painting and lavish manuscript illumination were also a prominent courtly art form throughout the 1500s in Safavid Iran, where artists used gold within the painted scene and in the elaborate floral or geometric frames. These refined sheets were created as manuscript illustration or as small stand-alone paintings.