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Two leaves with full-page borders from a Prayerbook, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
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Two leaves with full-page borders from a Prayerbook, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM

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Two leaves with full-page borders from a Prayerbook, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Spain, probably Toledo, c.1530]
128 x 95mm; 131 x 96mm. Both leaves with large opening initial and four-sided border on recto, the first with a scatter border on a gold ground, the second with gold all'antica decoration on coloured grounds, 16 lines of text in a round gothic bookhand.

These striking and richly-decorated leaves contain prayers rubricated as those recited by 'Helysabeth', queen of Spain, on rising and retiring to bed. The sumptuousness and finesse of the borders suggest that they were once part of an Hours of exceptional quality. While the scatter border appears to be the work of an illuminator trained in Flanders the script and prayers demonstrate the origin of the manuscript in Spain. The colourful border densely filled with gold renaissance ornament attests to the impact upon Spanish illumination of Giovan Pietro Birago's work in the Hours of Bona Sforza (BL, Add. Ms 59874). That manuscript had probably reached Charles V in Spain around 1521, and its influence is evident in borders of both the Breviary made for the emperor (Bib. de El Escorial, Vit.4-7) and the Book of Hours made for his wife, Isabella of Portugal (San Marino, Huntington Library, H M 1162). The latter manuscript contains the prayers carried on the present leaves and the emperor's wife and queen consort is likely to be the 'Helysabeth' cited in these rubrics.

The prayerbook to which these leaves belonged clearly combined the well-established taste of the Spanish court for Flemish illumination with features newly absorbed from the Sforza Hours. It was surely for a member of the court that the manuscript, relaying intimate knowledge of the queen's devotional practice, was destined. (2)
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Eugenio Donadoni
Eugenio Donadoni

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