BOOK OF HOURS, use of Utrecht, in the Dutch translation of Geert Grote, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
158 x 109mm. iii paper + 184 +iii paper leaves: 112(of 10, i and ii inserted miniature leaves), 2-710, 811(of 10, ii inserted miniature leaf), 9-1110, 128, 133(of 4, i and ii cancelled blanks, v inserted miniature leaf), 14-1910; tops of catchwords in lower margins of many final versos, 16 lines written in black ink in a gothic bookhand between two verticals and 17 horizontals ruled in brown, rubrics in red, text capitals touched red, two-line initials alternately in burnished gold on pink and blue grounds patterned with white and in blue with pink flourishing, numerous two-line initials in burnished gold on pink and blue grounds patterned with white linked to a burnished gold bar to the side with partial borders of hairline sprays of burnished gold leaves linking flowers, fruit and acanthus predominantly in pink, blue and green, three with half-length angels, one three-line initial with a bar to two sides and similar partial border, 19 three- to six-line initials on burnished gold grounds with flower and foliage infills linked to bars to two or three sides with full borders of similar type, some with angels, birds and half-length figures, FOUR ARCH-TOPPED MINIATURES IN FRAMES OF BURNISHED GOLD WITH FULL BORDERS FACING FOUR LARGE INITIALS OF SIMILAR TYPE WITH THREE-SIDED BARS AND FULL BORDERS (slight wear to some borders). 17th-century Dutch calf gilt, the covers with roll-tooled border, corner fleurons and central tooled arabesque (upper joint split at head and foot).
The book, labelled on the spine II DEEL, is the second volume of a book of hours made in the southern Netherlands, possibly Brabant from the style of illumination. The first part, containing an Utrecht calendar and the Hours of the Nativity, is in the Fries Museum, Leeuwarden (inv. PL1955-114), where it was exhibited in 1877 as the gift of Baron M.J.P.D. van Harinxma thoe Slooten. The two volumes were together in the sale of Henry Gockinga, Bibliotheca Gockingana, 14 June 1773, Utrecht, lot XL, and reunited in the Fries Museum for the exhibition Tsjoch! in 2005-2006.
Old catalogue number 4 on first paper leaf.
Office of the Virgin, use of Utrecht in the Dutch translation of Geert Grote ff.2-73: prologue Her beghinen die devote getide van onser liver vrouwen die in duytsche sijn ghesettet van woerde tot woerden als hi naest coude... f.2., matins f.5, lauds f.18v, prime f.32v, terce f.39, sext f.44, none f.49v, vespers f.55, compline f.65; Seven Words of the Virgin to Christ on the Cross, O vlietende borne der ewigher wijsheit..., each followed by Ave Maria, f.73; Hours of the Holy Spirit ff.75-106: matins f.75, prime f.81, terce f.85, sext f.88v, none f.92v, vespers f.96, compline f.101v; indulgence of 100 days and other benefits, confirmed by a vision of the Virgin, from reciting the Obsecro te, which follows in Dutch O heilighe vrouwe Maria, ff.106v-109v; prayers, including O oetmoedighe afgront with Pater noster cues, the Eight Verses of St Bernard, ff.109v-112v; indulgenced prayer on the parts of Christ's body, Here jhesu christe ic gruet dijn vruchtende hoeft, with Pater noster cues, ff.112v-115v; Stabat mater in Dutch, ff.115v-118; prayers including one to be said at mass bringing as many days of indulgence as Christ had wounds, Ic bidde dy alre minlichste heer, the Gaude flore virginali in Dutch with attribution to Thomas of Canterbury, ff.118-123v; devout prayer to be said when wanting to take the Sacrament, O overste priester end warach bisschop, often attributed to St Ambrose, and other prayers associated with the Sacrament, ff.125-141; prayers to the Virgin, for the Nativity, to our Lord, on St John the Evangelist, ff.141-157; O intemerata in Dutch, ff.157-161v; prayers to Christ on the Cross, St Elizabeth, St Jerome, All Saints, All Souls, the Virgin, the Harrowing of Hell, Resurrection, Ascension, the Last Judgement, the Virgin, St Erasmus, St Anthony, ff.161v-184v.
Geert Grote translated the Office of the Virgin into Dutch c.1385, to assist in the direct communication between the individual and God that lay at the heart of the Devotio moderna. His prologue explains the principles of his translation, that translating word by word to respect the form of the original may not always convey the meaning, which must then take precedence: die woerde sijn om de sinne te dienen ende die sinne niet om die woerde, the words exist to serve the meaning and not the meaning to serve the words, f.2. This prologue seldom appeared after the end of the 14th century: the enormous popularity of Grote's translation perhaps made it irrelevant in the northern Netherlands. Its rare occurrence in a book of hours of this date is consistent with an origin in the southern Netherlands, where comparatively few Dutch translations were in use and where an owner might have needed its explanatory reassurance.
The rich effect of borders, large initials and miniatures comes from the generous use of burnished gold, enhanced by the deep pinks and blues that dominate the carefully orchestrated colours. The first volume has been localised to Flanders and the figure style of the miniatures shows some similarities with Bruges illumination of the middle decades of the 15th century associated wiith the Masters of the Beady Eyes. The settings, however, are less characteristic in their simple stylisations: the gold scrolls, typical of somewhat earlier Bruges illumination, appear in a rather stiff form behind the Coronation of the Virgin, f.124v. The expanse of burnished gold in the background of the opening miniature, as in the grounds of the initials, is less characteristic of Flanders at this date and more reminiscent of illumination produced in the northern Netherlands. The borders show a similar fusion of elements, with French inspired rinceaux curling round engaging animals and grotesques, such as the monkey with its baby or the mermaid looking in a glass, which have a decorative flatness associated with such Dutch illuminators as the Delft Masters of the Half-Length Figures. The book seems likely to have been produced in Brabant. In the north of the Duchy, around 's Hertogenbosch, illumination very much followed north Netherlandish traditions, while to the south, Brussels, the favoured residence of the Burgundian court, was open to the stylistic conventions of Flanders to the west and of Hainault to the south. An origin in Brabant would be consistent with the constrained, regular pen flourishing.
It is possible that the miniatures were rearranged when the book was divided in two, since their placing in this volume is eccentric, with a Virgin enthroned and the Visitation as the only miniatures for the Office of the Virgin, while the Coronation of the Virgin, usually at compline, precedes a prayer to Christ as High Priest. The volume in the Fries Museum has no Annunciation miniature but five of its nine miniatures would otherwise complete a set for the eight liturgical hours, if it included Christ among the Doctors and excluded the Adoration of the Magi. The Office of the Virgin in the present volume cannot have been intended to have a miniature at each hour, since lauds, prime and none all start on versos, although the book could have been written before such extensive illustration was planned. It would certainly not appear to be a standard example from a major centre of book production.
A breviary from the priory of Groenendael, outside Brussels, sold at Sotheby's 5 December 1994, lot 90, has very similar initials to the present lot and also shares the unusual feature of bars that enclose the top of the text while leaving one side open. Usually a partial bar that does not enclose the entire text is left open to the top. Groenendael was a member of the Windesheim Congregation, founded by Grote's followers on his advice, and the monastic network played a significant part in the transmission of his ideas and writings. Many Windesheim houses, obliged to earn their incomes, wrote and illuminated books professionally: the present lot could be a monastic production. A handsomely illuminated and individualised volume, it shows that Grote's translation was in demand in the southern Netherlands, perhaps particularly in association with his spiritual heirs of the Windesheim Congregation.
The subjects of the miniatures are as follows:
The Virgin and Child enthroned with angels f.1v; the Visitation, f.4v; Pentecost f.74v; the Coronation of the Virgin f.124v.