BOOK OF HOURS, use of Paris, in Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1460]
This sparkling and immaculate manuscript is the fruit of the collaboration of two leading Parisian illuminators of the mid-15th century, the Dunois Master and the Master of Jean Rolin. The miniatures of these illuminators of succeeding generations exemplify the transition from the enchanting elegance of the International Gothic to a style more concerned with expressive and realistic qualities.
(1) The liturgical use and the styles of illumination indicate an origin and intended use in Paris. (2) SAN PAOLO FUORI LE MURA: the inserted prefatory leaf records the presentation of the manuscript to the library of the Roman basilica by Iovita Roscius Romanus – Abbot Giovita Rossi. A similar leaf written in gold capitals is found in the great Carolingian Bible of S. Paolo fuori le Mura, also known as the Bible of Charles the Bald: it records that manuscript’s restoration and rebinding in 1646 during Rossi’s abbacy. (3) GEORGE SOAPER, collector and bibliophile from Stoke near Guilford: his mid-19th-century bookplate inside upper cover. (4) MAURICE BURRUS. Purchased at Lardanchet, Lyon, in 1935.
Gospel Extracts ff.1-8; Obsecro te and O intemerata in the masculine ff.8v-14v; Office of the Virgin, use of Paris ff.15-70; prayers to be said at communion, added on leaves originally blank, ff.70v-71; Seven Penitential Psalms and Litany ff.72-89v; Hours of the Cross ff.90-97; Hours of the Holy Spirit ff.97v-103; Short Office of the Dead, with a replacement leaf carrying the end of the final prayer, ff.104-133; prayers to the Trinity, added on supplied leaves, ff.133-134v.
The prayers on ff.70-71 were added at the same time as those on the final two leaves: their text and decoration appear to be datable to around 1500.
The Dunois Master, named after the Book of Hours he made for Jean d’Orléans, comte de Dunois (BL, Yates Thompson ms 3), is recognised as the most gifted collaborator and then successor to the Bedford Master (see also lot 18). In a career that certainly extended to 1466 he continued to produce, as in the present Hours, scenes of a captivating delicacy and charm. This is perfectly demonstrated by the Virgin and Child in a Rose Garden (f.8v), where not only the hedge but the bench and ground are scattered with carefully differentiated flowers and the Christ Child hesitantly takes a cherry from the dish proffered by an angel. One feature of the master’s style often singled out is the subtle atmospheric recession in some of his landscapes. The St John on Patmos (f.1) is an excellent example with its hazy distant vista and the reflection of rocky outcrops shown on the water’s surface.
On occasion from around 1455, the date of the Hours of Simon de Varie (J. Paul Getty Museum ms 7 and The Hague Koninklijke Bibliotheek ms 74 G 37 and 37a) he collaborated with the Master of Jean Rolin. This younger illuminator, active in Paris between 1445 and 1465, is named for commissions placed with him by Cardinal Jean II Rolin for a series of Missals made for the Cathedral of Autun. A prodigious number of manuscripts are attributed to him and his workshop, but his contributions to the present manuscript represent his style at its peak and are as beautifully executed as any. The handling is closely comparable to his work in the L’Orloge de Sapience in Brussels (Bib.roy. ms.IV.III), the manuscript recognised as his ‘chef d’oeuvre’: see F. Avril and N. Reynaud, Les manuscrits à peintures en France, 1993, pp.38-4. That manuscript was also produced in collaboration with the Dunois Master. In contrast to the Hours of Simon de Varie, where the Dunois Master appears to have played the principal role, and where the borders are in his semi-grisaille manner, the Rolin Master’s work prevails in L’Orloge. In the present Hours the Dunois master was responsible for slightly more of the miniatures but all of the borders, around text and miniature, are the accomplished confections with highly burnished gold and swooping birds characteristic of the Rolin Master.
The subjects of the miniatures are: St John on Patmos f.1, St Luke f.3, St Matthew f.5, St Mark f.7, Virgin and Child in a Rose Garden f.8v, Annunciation f.15, Visitation f.27, Nativity f.38v, Annunciation to the Shepherds f.44v, Adoration of the Magi f.49, Presentation in the Temple f.53v, Flight into Egypt f.58, Coronation of the Virgin f.65, David in Penitence f.72, Crucifixion f. 90, Pentecost f.97v, Burial service within a church f.104. The historiated initial is on f.12v.
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION AND CONDITION:
208 x 145mm. i + 134 leaves, 15 lines, ruled space 110 x 70mm, Illuminated initials and line-fillers throughout, every page with a three-sided border, one historiated initial and SEVENTEEN LARGE MINIATURES WITH FULL-PAGE BORDERS (lacking final leaf and possibly a calendar, occasional inconsequential spotting or stains in margins). 17th-century rose velvet over pasteboard, page edges gilt and gauffered, likely bound for Abbot Giovita Rossi (worn).