BOOK OF HOURS, use of Amiens, in Latin and French, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
210 x 145mm. iii + 148 leaves + ii: 1-26, 37+1(of 8, lacking i but with an inserted singleton with miniature between iii and iv), 4-198, fifteen lines written in black ink in a gothic bookhand between 16 horizontals and two verticals ruled in pink, justification: 108 x 70mm, rubrics in blue, red or pink, one-line initials of burnished gold against grounds and infills of pink and blue with white penwork decoration, two-line initials with staves of pink or blue against grounds of burnished gold with a trefoil spray in the infill all accompanied by text-height or three-sided borders made up of sprays of hair-line tendrils with golden leaves and disks and coloured flowerheads, SEVEN FULL-PAGE BORDERS OF ACANTHUS AND FLOWER-SPRAYS, INCLUDING HALF-LENGTH FIGURES AND WITH A NARRATIVE SCENE IN THE LOWER BORDER, similar full-page borders, but without the marginal miniature, surround and face the TWO FULL-PAGE ARCH-TOPPED MINIATURES and surround FOUR LARGE MINIATURES (two small ink smudges at the edge of the border to Pentecost). 19th-century brown morocco preserving the late 15th-century blind-stamped brown leather covers with concentric panels of the following tools repeated: triple fleur de lis in a burning sun, the Holy Face, a gryphon, and a flowerhead, a central row of a two-compartment tool with fleur de lis (covers with repairs to slight worming and cuts from clasps, now lacking). Brown cloth-covered box.
Liturgical considerations indicate that the manuscript was made in Amiens: the Office of the Dead is for the use of Amiens and the Office of the Virgin only differs from the use of Amiens in having the antiphons for prime and none reversed; and the feasts of the principal bishops and patrons of the city are differentiated as major feasts in the Calendar: St Firmin (13 January and 25 September), St Honoré (16 May), St Fuscian (11 December). The presence of San Bernardino in the Litany suggests that the manuscript was written after his canonisation in 1450.
The prayer Obsecro te and the suffrage to St Christopher are in the feminine form and in the sequence of suffrages the female saints, unusually, precede the male. Among them the rarely included St Susanna is singled out for illustration with a miniature. The woman for whom
the book was made may well have borne the saint's name.
A note on the third flyleaf records the ownership of the manuscript by Antoine de Saint Sulpice, Seigneur of Saint Sulpice and Watteblery, then aged 60 and living at Tours en Vimeu 1 January 1470. Tours en Vimeu is close to Abbeville, in Picardy, and within the diocese of Amiens. It seems likely that a female member of Antoine's family was the first owner of this Hours.
John Moore Paget (1792-1866), High Sherrif of Rutland: his armorial bookplate on lower pastedown. A note on the verso of the second flyleaf identifies this manuscript, probably, as the Missal recorded in his accounts as purchased by from Wise in March 1816. By descent to the present owner.
Calendar ff.1-12; Hours of the Cross, lacking opening leaf, ff.13-15v; Hours of the Holy Spirit ff.17-20v; Office of the Virgin ff.21-68v: matins f.21, lauds f.32, prime f.42v, terce f.47v, sext f.51, none f.54v, vespers f.58, compline f.64; Seven Penitential Psalms and Litany ff.69-86; Office of the Dead use of Amiens ff.87-130v; sequence of prayers to the Virgin and Christ opening with Obsecro te ff.131-137v, followed by suffrages to St Mary Magdalene, St Katherine, St Anne, St Susanna, St Margaret, St Christopher, All saints, St Sebastian ff.137v-145; extracts from the Gospel of John and Luke followed by prayers ff.145v-148v.
The clear bright palette, sparkling gold and frequent use of silver make this a highly decorative and attractive style. Half-length figures -- angels, clerics and acolytes, God the Father -- are placed in the borders as accessory players in the Holy narratives. They gesture across the page, engaged with one another or the central scene adding interest and charm.
The figure style -- compact, rather short-armed figures with cheery round faces -- and several compositions show a close relationship to the style of the illuminator named the Master of the Fitzwilliam Hours after a manuscript in Cambridge (Fitzwilliam Museum, Ms 65): S. Nash, Between France and Flanders, Manuscript Illumination in Amiens in the Fifteenth Century, 1999, pp.154-56, 160-63 and 285-289. His hand has been identified in manuscripts made in Amiens from c.1415 into the 1430s. One distinguishing feature of the Master's style is the evident and specific influence on him and his associates of a Parisian manuscript, the Lamoignon Hours (Lisbon, Gulbenkian foundation, Ms L.A.237), painted by the Bedford Master around 1415. The border type of the present manuscript, more evolved than that of the other Fitzwilliam Master manuscripts, indicates it as a later product of the style, and appears to show that the activity and influence of the Fitzwilliam Master should be extended beyond 1450. Acanthus sprays in the lower borders for lauds to compline of the Office of the Virgin enfold the customary narrative scenes that illustrate these hours -- this is a fresh and alternative approach and one that may well have found its source in the Bedford Master's border design in the Lamoignon Hours.
The subjects of the miniatures and marginal scenes are as follows:
f.13v Pentecost, a full-page miniature; f.21 Annunciation, a large miniature; f.32 Visitation, scene in lower border; f.42v Nativity, scene in lower border; f.47v Annunciation to the Shepherds, scene in lower border; f.51 Adoration of the Magi, scene in lower border; f.54v Presentation in the Temple, scene in lower border; f.58 Flight into Egypt, scene in lower border; f.64 Coronation of the Virgin, scene in lower border; f.69 David in Penitence, large miniature; f.86v Raising of Lazarus, full-page miniature; f.139v Young Daniel defending Susanna by exposing the false testimony of the two elders, large miniature; f.141 St Christopher carrying the Christ Child, the hermit watching, large miniature.