• The Arcana Collection: Excepti auction at Christies

    Sale 7982

    The Arcana Collection: Exceptional Illuminated Manuscripts, Part III

    6 July 2011, London, King Street

  • Lot 16


    Price Realised  


    [western France, ?Angers, c.1460-65]121 x 86mm. 212 leaves: 19(of 10, lacking i), 29(of 8 + i), 3-118, 126(of 8, lacking vii and viii), 1310 (of 8 + i and x), 14-228, 234, 24-258, 266(of 8, lacking iii and iv), 278, some small catchwords in lower margins of final versos, twelve lines written in a brown ink in lettre bâtarde between two verticals and 13 horizontals, justification 51 x 38mm, rubrics in red, one- and two-line initials in liquid gold on grounds of red and blue with infills patterned in liquid gold, some with angels, EVERY PAGE WITH A FULL BORDER of flowers, fruit and foliage inhabited by people, wild men, grotesques, beasts, birds and a Dance of Death, TWENTY LARGE ARCH-TOPPED MINIATURES WITH FULL BORDERS OF SIMILAR TYPE, many with additional figures and scenes, TWO LARGE MINIATURES IN FULL-PAGE ARCHITECTURAL FRAMES, TWELVE FULL-PAGE MINIATURES, incorporating text on scrolls (wear to some miniatures and a few borders, rodent damage to upper corners ff.1-24, slightly trimmed into tops of some miniature frames and to sides of ff.11 and 76v). Modern burgundy velvet over wooden boards, metal clasp. Brown solander box.


    This is the major section of a grandly illuminated Book of Hours, localisable to western France, probably Angers that was apparently divided in the 15th century, the date of the binding on the 66 leaves of prayers in Paris (BnF, ms lat.1405), known as the Hours of Mary Queen of Scots from the 17th-century inscription that it was owned by 'Marie Stuhart rege d'A.' with an 18th-century correction to 'de Marie Stuart Reine d'Ecosse'. The relationship of the two sections was first recognised by Eberhard König, see F. Avril and N. Reynaud, Les manuscrits à peintures en France 1440-1520, 1993, p.123. The complete manuscript was probably commissioned by someone connected to King René of Anjou, who was also Count of Provence: Provence is evoked by the accurate depiction of the Magdalene's hermitage at the Ste-Baume, f.206, and the appearance of her sister Martha with the dragon of Tarascon, f.210v, and of the Virgin's half-sisters who accompanied them to Provence, f.207v. Their cult, centred at what became Les-Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, was fostered by King René. The patron of Angers cathedral, St Maurice, is also honoured with a suffrage. Court affiliations are reinforced by the rare inclusion of St Peter Celestine in the litany: the Celestine order had come to France under royal patronage and the Celestine house in Paris, founded by Charles V, continued to be supported by the royal family. Angevins were prominent at the French court, at this date based in the Loire region, adjacent to the Angevin heartlands. The daughter of King Charles VII, Jeanne, Duchess of Bourbon, and Louis of Anjou, legitimated son of Charles, count of Maine, were among those owning Books of Hours of similar format by the same circle of illuminators (Splendeur de l'enluminure, le roi René et ses livres, 2009, this ms pp.142, 376).

    Gospel extracts ff.1-10; Office of the Virgin, use of Rome, interspersed with the Hours of the Cross and Holy Spirit ff.11-106: matins of the Virgin f.11, lauds of the Virgin f.37, matins of the Cross f.54v, and then following the office of the Virgin for each hour, matins of the Holy Spirit f.56v, and then following the Hours of the Cross for each hour, prime of the Virgin f.58v, terce of the Virgin f.65, sext of the Virgin 71, none of the Virgin f.76v, vespers of the Virgin f.82v, compline of the Virgin f.91v, calendar variants f.97; Penitential Psalms and Litany ff.107-136; Office of the Dead, use of Rome ff.136v-182; Suffrages, ff. 183-212v: to the Trinity f.183, God the Father f.186, to Sts John the Baptist f.189v, John the Evangelist f.190v, Peter and Paul f.191v, Maurice f.193, Sebastian f.194v, Christopher f.196, Denis, George, Christopher, Blaise and Giles f.198, Nicholas f.200, Claude f.201, Martin f.203v, Katherine f.204v, Mary Magdalene f.206, Maries Jacobi and Salome f.207v, Apollonia f.209, Katherine, Margaret, Martha, Christina and Barbara f.210v, All Saints f.212.

    Unwieldy bulk probably prompted the careful separation of some subsidiary texts to form the small prayerbook now in Paris, which contains a sequence of prayers, chiefly Marian, the Gospel extract of the Passion from St John, the seven verses of St Bernard and two suffrages, to Sts Stephen and Lawrence (see E. König, Französische Buchmalerei um 1450, 1982, pp.203-7). The Calendar is presumably missing, as is certainly the suffrage to St Anthony, signalled in the Arcana volume on f.200v. Otherwise, despite the irregularities introduced into the collation, the Arcana volume contains complete texts that constitute the essentials of a Book of Hours.

    This entrancing book -- 'ce précieux petit livre d'heures' -- preserves the only miniatures in private hands included in the exhibition on Jean Fouquet held at the Bibliothèque nationale de France in 2003 (F. Avril, Jean Fouquet, 2003, cat. 56, pp.402-407, 172, 354). Fouquet, the innovative genius who introduced classicising Renaissance style to France, was a master of perspective and spatial illusion. His dramatic integrations of text and image within a unified space inspired the opening miniatures, ff.1, 4, 6v, 9 and 37, 58v, where a close follower repeated Fouquet's miniatures in the Hours of Jean Robertet, datable to the early 1460s (New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, ms M.834). Fouquet's masterpiece, the dismembered Hours of Etienne Chevalier (Chantilly, Musée Condé) provided the model for the Crucifixion, f.54v, while the full-page miniatures on ff.56v, 65 and 82v, probably reflect lost Fouquet originals, since the same patterns were followed in various later books of hours, particularly one in the Beinecke Library of Yale University, ms 662, which also shares the composition of the Adoration of the Magi, f.71. The miniatures on ff.71, 189v, 193 and 196 seem the work of a distinct follower, who exaggerated the master's tendency to enlarge bodies at the expense of heads.

    The very individual Master of Smith-Lesouëf 30, named from a Book of Hours in the BnF, was recognised by François Avril as the artist of the miniature with architectural framing on f.11, the full-page miniatures on ff.107 and 136v and the miniatures on f.206 and perhaps ff.207v and 210v. An early user of architectural frames, found also in his name manuscript, the Master had previously collaborated with Fouquet himself on a Book of Hours for the use of Angers c.1450 (BnF, ms nouv. acq. lat. 3211). His work on the Arcana volume would agree with a date soon after the Robertet Hours, towards 1465.

    Most of the remaining miniatures are by the gifted Master of the Geneva Boccaccio, named from Geneva, Bibl. pub. et univ. ms fr. 191. Active c.1440-1470 probably in Angers, he attracted major commissions from the Angevin court. His painterly style and talent for movement and narrative are seen on ff.186, 200, 201, 203v, 204v, 209 and 212. One of his frequent collaborators, the Master of Adelaïde of Savoy, also known as the Master of Poitiers ms 30, was responsible for the miniatures on ff.191v and 198 with their clear outlines and sharp modelling. Other miniatures have been attributed by König to the Master of the Oxford Hours, named from Bodleian Library, ms Add. A 185. All three Masters were closely associated with the Jouvenel Master and the basic design of this book follows the pattern established by the Jouvenel Master for small Books of Hours, as seen in the Hours of Louis of Anjou (Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, ms 38-1950). It has been argued that all the illuminators of miniatures with borders worked on the book c.1455, leaving it to be completed with the full-page miniatures c.1465 or even later. It is, however, hard to make sense of such a division from the participation of the different illuminators through the book as a whole. The miniature of female saints on f.210v, for instance, which approaches the Master of Smith-Lesouëf in style reuses a composition by the Master of the Geneva Boccaccio in a Book of Hours in Lyon (ms 6022), giving St Barbara's tower to St Catherine so that the figure of Barbara could become a suitably Provençal St Martha. The coherence of the border decoration suggests that the pages with full-page miniatures were always intended for different treatment. It therefore seems possible that the book was produced in one phase of work towards 1465.

    The richness of the border decoration also required the involvement of several hands. Every page has a full border, enlivened with an entrancing range of figures: human, angelic, animal and fabulous. To facilitate working, each border was usually traced through to the other side of the leaf but extraordinary inventiveness was still required to achieve the variety of content. There are real creatures, like bristling porcupines and splendid peacocks (e.g. ff.40v-41), and exotic beasts, like unicorns (e.g. f.46), often in confrontations or battling wildmen, but only a few motifs are specifically religious in meaning, like the pelican in its piety (f.163). Their distribution does not suggest that any is a specific emblem, although the comparatively frequent porcupine was a badge of the King's cousin, the Duke of Orléans. There are many incidents of everyday life, such as spinning (f.81), numerous hunting scenes (e.g. f.175), playing blind man's buff (f.30) or promenading (f.109), as well as proverbs - falling between two stools (f.180), monkeys 'aping' the ways of men (e.g. f.90), a fox preaching to chickens (ff.11v, 129). Sometimes figures interact with the stylised foliage, as the men harvesting grapes (f.76) or the gentleman offering flowers to his lady (f.124). Through the pages of the Office of the Dead winds that epitome of the Autumn of the Middle Ages, a Dance of Death, where the dead claim their living equivalents from all ranks of society (ff.137, 138, 149, 152, 153v, 160, 164, 166, 169, 176, 181).

    The subjects of the full-page miniatures are as follows: St John on Patmos f.1, St Luke beside a portrait of the Virgin f.4, St Matthew f.6v, St Mark f.9, the Visitation f.37v, the Crucifixion f.54v, Pentecost f.56v, the Nativity f.58v, the Annunciation to the Shepherds f.65, the Flight into Egypt f.82v, David in prayer before the Lord within a jewelled frame f.107, the Last Judgement f.136v.
    The subjects of the large miniatures within full-page architectural frames are as follows: the Annunciation f.11, the Presentation in the Temple f.76v.
    The subjects of the large miniatures are as follows: the Adoration of the Magi with border of God the Father, angels and mounted attendants f.71, the Coronation of the Virgin with border of music making angels f.91v, the Trinity enthroned with border of music making angels f.183, God the Father enthroned between the symbols of the Evangelists with border of music making angels and monkeys f.186, the Baptism of Christ with border of the Baptist and the Lamb of God, the Baptist preaching and beasts of the wilderness f.189v, St John the Evangelist boiled in oil with border of his exorcism of the poisoned cup f.190v, Sts Peter and Paul with border of men and monkeys f.191v, St Maurice and the Theban legion with border of Maurice and two legionaries f.193, St Sebastian being shot with arrows, two further archers and their commander in the border below, two angels above f.194v, St Christopher fording a river with the Christ Child, two men with staves, a jester and others in the border f.196, St Louis IX (a mistake for St Denis) flanked by Sts Giles and George, Sts Blaise and Christopher behind, with border of a fantastic hunt f.198, St Nicholas raising the three boys from the brine tub, watched by the three girls he had saved from prostitution, with border of a stag hunt f.200, St Claude restoring a boy to health or life with border of grotesques f.201, St Martin riding out of Amiens dividing his cloak with a beggar, in the border welcome of a dismounted rider (?Martin) with attendant f.203v, St Katherine studying at her adjustable reading desk, below in the border disputing with the philosophers f.204v, a tiny figure of St Mary Magdalene rising in ecstasy above her rocky hermitage of the Ste-Baume, the woman and musician in the border below perhaps signifying her previous sinful life f.206, Sts Maries Jacobi and Salome with border of grotesques f.207v, St Apollonia having her teeth extracted and, in the border below, standing between two persecutors f.209, Sts Katherine, Margaret, Martha, Christina and Barbara, with the leading figure in the royal robes appropriate to Katherine or Barbara with Katherine's sword and wheel and Barbara's tower, with border of grotesques f.210v, All Saints, led by John the Baptist, Peter, Paul and Stephen, with John the Evangelist and Lawrence distinguished behind and border of music making angels f.212.

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