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Since the Middle Ages the text of Psalm 126 – the only Psalm attributed to Solomon rather than David – has inspired the best composers. Famous versions of Nisi Dominus were set to music by Händel (1707) and Vivaldi (in G minor, RV 608). The latter composed his most important work in Italy, where he would have seen medieval choir books in their original context.
The present leaf belonged to a Franciscan Choir Psalter illuminated by Giovanni di Antonio da Bologna, known for his work for Bolognese religious institutions and for the Este court in Ferrara. The letter N presents two Franciscan monks sitting outside with open books. They point up to God and to a city, introducing what is one of the most famous Psalms: "Nisi Dominus edificaverit domum … cum dederit…" ("Unless the Lord built the house, they labour in vain that built it. Unless the Lord keeps the city, they watch in vain that keep it…"; Psalm 126, Vulgate). The border decoration with strong red, green, and blue colours, including typical exotic birds, is best comparable to Giovanni's mature and dynamic late gothic style. A unique gift for a music lover!
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