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Copyright
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Christ giving communion to the Apostles in an historiated initial "C"

Accession Number
1968/2.44

Title
Christ giving communion to the Apostles in an historiated initial "C"

Artist(s)
Dutch

Object Creation Date
1440-1460

Medium & Support
tempera and gold leaf on vellum

Dimensions
2 3/16 in x 1 15/16 in (5.56 cm x 4.92 cm);19 3/10 in x 14 3/10 in (49.05 cm x 36.35 cm);2 3/16 in x 1 15/16 in (5.56 cm x 4.92 cm)

Credit Line
Museum Purchase

Label copy
The initial "C" enframes a scene of Christ offering communion to the apostles. Christ stands in front of an altar, with the chalice in one hand and the host—imprinted with a Crucifixion scene—in the other. Eight apostles kneel at a structure that serves both as the table of the Last Supper and an altar rail. The small size of the initial may have constrained the artist to depict only eight Apostles instead of the usual twelve.
This tiny illumination was cut at some point in its history from a missal or Book of Hours with a liturgical text. The initial represents the beginning of the introit to the Mass on the Feast of Corpus Christi, written in 1264 by Saint Thomas Aquinas, and derived from Psalm 80:17: "He fed [cibavit] them with the fat of wheat, and filled them with honey out of the rock."
Exhibition label text, collections gallery, by Curator Annette Dixon, April 2001

Subject matter
This miniature scene, enclosed within the letter "C," depicts Christ standing before an altar giving the bread and wine of communion to the Apostles. The painting has been cut from a manuscript, where the letter "C" served as the initial letter of the phrase used to begin the mass for the Feast of Corpus Christi, an important Christian holy day dedicated to commemorating Christ's bodily sacrifice. The image of communion in the miniature introduces this feast perfectly, since according to Catholic belief the bread and wine were transformed into Christ's body and blood during the mass.

Physical Description
Eight robed male figures, each with a halo, kneel before a v-shaped bench or rail. They face a male figure with a crossed halo that stands on the other side of the bench, holding a golden chalice in his left hand and a circular white wafer imprinted with a crucifixion scene in his right. An altar draped with a red cloth appears behind him. The entire scene is enframed within the letter "C."

Primary Object Classification
Painting

Collection Area
Western

Rights
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Keywords
Christianity
altar cloths
altars
apostles
chalices (liturgical vessels)
communions (Christian ceremonies)
feasts

4 Related Resources

Before 1492
(Part of 3 Learning Collections)
Devotional Objects Across Religions
(Part of 4 Learning Collections)
Introduction to Manuscripts and Early Print
(Part of 2 Learning Collections)
Religious Life in Medieval and Early Modern Europe
(Part of 2 Learning Collections)

& Author Notes

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