The Breslau Psalter
The Master of Giovanni da Gaibana
This artist illuminated a manuscript copied in 1259 for the Cathedral of Padua by the scribe Giovanni da Gaibana, hence his name. The manuscript is still in Padua (Biblioteca Capitolare, MS E2) and the Gaibana Master must have travelled north of the Alps after its completion, bringing with him the ‘precious’ style and Byzantine iconography prevalent in the Veneto at the time.
His migration has been associated with Duke Henry III’s brother, Vladislav, who studied in Padua before becoming bishop of Passau and archbishop of Salzburg in 1265, and Bishop of Breslau in 1268. Other volumes made for religious houses in the archdiocese of Salzburg contain images by the Gaibana Master or his associates, but the Master’s contribution to the Breslau Psalter – the full-page Beatus initial for Psalm 1 on fol. 23v – is the image most intimately connected in style and execution to his illuminations in the Paduan volume. His work is characterised by luminous colours; dignified figures with icon-like expressions; softly modelled faces with smoothly blended flesh tones; elegant drapery with rhythmical, nestled folds; and the flowering, broccoli-like trees considered to be one of his signature motifs.