BOOK OF HOURS, use of Auxerre, in Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Burgundy, c.1480]
A distinctive Hours of an uncommon liturgical use and illuminated in an individual developed style that is colourful in both palette and humour.
(1) The liturgy of the Office of the Virgin and the feasts of the Calendar suggest an intended use, and probably origin, in the diocese of Auxerre, Burgundy: the feast of St Peregrinus, first bishop of Auxerre (16 May) is included in red. The initials beneath the miniatures contain the initials I and P joined with a knot. The prayer Obsecro te is in the feminine form and the manuscript was presumably illuminated for a lady whose name began with P. (2) MAURICE BURRUS, no 10. Purchased at the sale of Mme Th. Belin, 19/20 February 1936.
Calendar ff.1-12; Gospel Extracts, lacking opening, ff.13-16v; Obsecro te and O intemerata ff.18-23v; Office of the Virgin, lacking opening, ff.24-68v; Seven Penitential Psalms ff.70-84v; Short Hours of the Cross ff.85-88v; Short Hours of the Holy Spirit ff.89-91v; Office of the Dead, unidentified use, ff.93-127.
The miniatures are lively scenes packed with figures and incident. Gesturing, active characters are set in detailed architecture and landscapes that feature extraordinary unstable rock formations. This combination makes for a quirky but very appealing style. Subjects are often given an extra gloss. For example, the dying man in the scene illustrating the Office of the Dead has a crown on his pillow – even princes have demons fighting for their souls and family ransacking their treasure chests; Bathsheba flaunts her body in a fountain in front of David’s window, where the king stands with counsellors and is backed by his army, the yet-to-be-wronged husband already meets his death in the landscape behind his shameless wife.
In contrast to the central religious scenes many of the lower borders contain irreverent and entertaining monochrome grotesques.
The subjects of the miniatures are: Virgin lactans on a crescent moon f.18, Presentation in the Temple f.32v, Nativity f.42v, Annunciation to the Shepherds f.47v, Adoration of the Magi f.51v Visitation f.55, Massacre of the Innocents f.58v, Coronation of the Virgin f.64, David and Bathsheba f.70, Crucifixion f.85, Pentecost f.89, Deathbed scene with demons and an angel arguing over the fate of the soul f.93.
The illuminator juxtaposed the Presentation in the Temple (32v) and the Visitation (f.55), placing the first to open lauds and the second to open none.
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION AND CONDITION:
170 x 120mm. 129 leaves, 16 lines, ruled space 95 x 65 mm, illuminated initials throughout, panel borders on every page with a two-line initial, one historiated initial gilt and drawn only, TWELVE ARCH-TOPPED MINIATURES WITH FULL-PAGE BORDERS (lacking leaves with miniatures before f.13 and 24, some rubbing to illumination and darkening of vellum). Late 17th-century panelled calf gilt-stamped and ruled (extremities rubbed, upper joint split at foot). In a brown leather box (joint split).