The Dream of Saint Romuald (Cutting from an Antiphonary or a Gradual)

Italian (Venice?)
Medieval (Late Gothic)/early Renaissance
mid-15th century
Attributed to Belbello da Pavia

Place of Manufacture: possibly Venice, Northern Italy


Overall: 21 x 13.5 cm (8 1/4 x 5 5/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Tempera, ink and gold leaf on parchment

Not On View





A cutting from an antiphonary or gradual choirbook (both book types containing songs for the Divine Office or Mass), with four partial staves on verso. Heightened square neumes on a four-line red staff, no clefs extant. Written in a Rotunda script in black ink with text in Latin. Historiated initial (probably [O]), the Dream of St. Romuald (founder of the ascetic Camaldolese monastic order in the late tenth century): while seeking a site on which to build his new abbey (so the legend was recorded in the Vita Beati Romualdi by Peter Damian), Romuald dreamed of a ladder connecting heaven and earth on which ascended and descended men in white robes. In this miniature, the white-robed Romuald is shown sleeping in a kneeling position and resting his head against a white-draped altar. He is surrounded by similarly clothed Camaldolese monks, apparently part of his vision, some of whom are at prayer while others gaze at the ladder to heaven in the background. Contrary to the vision as recorded by Peter Damian, in this depiction angels, not white-robed men, fill the ladder, perhaps a conflation of the legend with Jacob’s dream. Gold leaf background.


About 1955/1961, the estate of Jacob Hirsch (dealer; b. 1874 - d. 1955), New York [see note 1]. Probably Frederick A. Stern (dealer), New York [see note 2]. 1967, Julius Böhler, Munich; 1967, sold by Böhler to John Goelet, New York; 1973, gift of John Goelet to the MFA. (Accession Date: January 9, 1974)

[1] Millard Meiss, "An Early Lombard Altarpiece," Arte Antica e Moderna, 13 (1961): 132, n. 28 and pl. 46b. [2] According to Serena Padovani, "Pittori della corte estense nel primo Quattrocento," Paragone 26 (1975): 48, n. 28, this belonged to "F. Stern" of New York, presumably the dealer Frederick Stern. At the time of publication, Padovani was unaware that the miniature was owned by the MFA.

Credit Line

Gift of Mr. John Goelet in honor of Hanns Swarzenski