BOOK OF HOURS, use of Besançon, in Latin and French, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Franche-Comté, Besançon, c. 1460]
210 X 150mm. ii + 138 + i leaves: 112, 2-9(a-h)8, 10(i)6, 11-17(k-q)8, COMPLETE. 15 lines written in black ink between two verticals and 16 horizontals ruled in red: written space 98 x 68mm. Panel borders in the outer margins of every page with a double fillet and hairline tendrils with golden trefoils and flowerheads, and colored sprays of acanthus and flowers with the occasional inclusion of birds or beasts, similar full-page borders with baguette frames surrounding EIGHTEEN LARGE ARCH-TOPPED MINIATURES (some darkening and minor stains to margins, smudging to miniatures on ff.15 and 18). EARLY SIXTEENTH-CENTURY panelled light-brown leather stamped in blind with rows of dragons, pelicans and stars within a frame of ruled triple fillets and foliage, border with quatrefoils in lozenges, two straps and silver clasps (restored and rebacked, replacement straps).
The style of illumination and liturgical use of the Offices of the Virgin and of the Dead localize the production and the intended use of the manuscript to Besançon in the Franche-Comté. The name Audoly is written in a ?17th-century hand on the rear paste-down.
Calendar ff.1-12v; Gospel extracts ff.13-19v; Obsecro te ff.20-23v; O intemerata ff.24-28; Office of the Virgin ff.29-81v; Hours of the Cross ff.83-86v; Hours of the Holy Spirit ff.87-90; Seven Penitential Psalms and Litany ff.91-106v; Office of the Dead ff.107-134v.
The highly decorative and attractive illumination of this manuscript places it among a group of Hours identified and discussed by François Avril as produced in Besançon in the atelier of an illuminator who was active for several decades from the 1440s (in Les Manuscrits à peintures en France 1440-1520, eds F. Avril & N. Reynaud, 1993, p. 197. His style owed much to a Burgundian illuminator of the previous generation (see the illuminator of Morgan 293, J. Plummer, The Last Flowering, 1982, no 36), and he adopted and continued to use compositions invented by even earlier Parisian illuminators: for example the miniature of St John in the present Hours which appears in at least 3 other manuscripts (see F. Avril in Tributes to Jonathan J. G. Alexander, 2009, pp. 127-8).
His style in the present manuscript is extremely appealing and idiosyncratic: figures have tilted-up cheery faces with puffy cheeks and hooded eyes and effectively convey a sense of communication one with another; settings are shown with an unusual degree of structural detail – for example the two-storey pavillion housing St Mark and his lion – and delight in patterned surfaces; whereas some of the backgrounds are tessellated, naturalistic landscapes feature the use of metals to convey light effects – in the background of David in Prayer the lake is silver and gold and the slopes of the distant mountains are silver.
Such features and the elegant script make this an arrestingly attractive work.
The subjects of the miniatures are:
f.13 St John; f.14v St Luke; f.16v St Matthew; f.18v St Mark; f.20 Virgin nursing the Christ Child; f.24 Pietà; f.29 Annunciation; f.45v Visitation; f.57 Nativity; f.61v Annunciation to the shepherds; f.65 Adoration of the Magi; f.69 Presentation in the Temple; f.72 Fight into Egypt; f.77 Coronation of the Virgin; f.83 Crucifixion; f.87 Pentecost; f.91 David in Penitence; f.107 Vigil of the Dead in a church.