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BOOK OF HOURS, use of Rouen, in Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1450]
BOOK OF HOURS, use of Rouen, in Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1450]
BOOK OF HOURS, use of Rouen, in Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1450]
BOOK OF HOURS, use of Rouen, in Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1450]
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BOOK OF HOURS, use of Rouen, in Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1450]

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BOOK OF HOURS, use of Rouen, in Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1450]

A lavishly illuminated Book of Hours for Rouen with miniatures in the distinctive style of the Master of the Munich Golden Legend, one of the leading illuminators in Paris in the first half of the 15th century.


198 x 135mm. ii + 151 + i leaves, complete, 16 lines, ruled space: 108 x 70mm. Twelve large miniatures above large initials with full borders, every written page with a border (f.68 trimmed just into vertical edge of border, some offsetting from miniatures and frames onto facing pages, some miniatures affected by offsetting or smudging, flaking of some white and flesh colour). Modern brown velvet with metal studs over wooden boards, two leather straps with metal clasps and catches.


Provenance: The liturgical use is of Rouen, where the Master of the Munich Golden Legend may himself have spent some time and where his style was known. In the litany St Romanus. the chief patron of Rouen, is invoked with the Rouen saints Mellon, Aubert, Austreberta and Honorine but Romanus is strikingly absent from the essentially Parisian calendar. It seems more likely, therefore, that the book was made in Paris for the Rouen market or for a Norman resident in the capital. Prayers are predominantly in the feminine.
James and Devon Gray Booksellers, 12 Arrow St, Cambridge MA, no 937c; cutting loose in volume.


Content: 18th-century title with small drawing of the Sacred Heart on second fly leaf, Calendar ff.1-12, Gospel Extracts ff.13-17, ruled blank f.18, Obsecro te ff.19-22v, O intemerata ff,22v-26, ruled blank f.26v, Office of the Virgin, use of Rouen ff.27-78; short Hours of the Cross ff.79-82, short Hours of the Holy Spirit ff.83-86, ruled blank f.86v, Penitential Psalms ff. 87-98v, Litany ff.98v-103, Office of the Dead, use of Rouen, ff.103v-143v, Fifteen Joys in French ff.144-148, ruled blanks ff.149-151
The subjects of the large miniatures are: Annunciation with a man picking grapes in the border, a possible symbol of the sacrificial death for which Christ was incarnated f.17, Visitation f.37v, Nativity f.52v, Annunciation to the Shepherds f.57v, Adoration of the Magi f.61, Presentation in the Temple f.64v, Flight into Egypt f.68, Coronation of the Virgin f.74, Christ on the Cross between the Virgin and St John with marginal roundel of the Instruments of the Passion f.79, Pentecost f.83, David in Penitence f.87, reciting the Office of the Dead beside the coffin f.103v .

Illumination: The richly coloured miniatures, with gold enhancing the strong red, blue and green, are in the style of the Master of the Munich Golden Legend, named from the copy of the popular compilation of church festivals and saints days now in Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, cod. gall. 3. Although the Master may have worked for a time in Normandy and western France, perhaps Brittany, he was centred in Paris where he often collaborated with the Dunois Master, successor to the Bedford Master as the dominant figure in Parisian illumination. The Munich Golden Legend Master’s appealing style, evident from the 1420s to the 1450s, deploys bold areas of colour to favour surface pattern over spatial illusion, relying on line to detail, to define contours and to model through hatching. His later style makes more use of modelling in paint without losing the linearity that made it particularly accessible to imitation.

Throughout the Master’s career, it seems that his compositional patterns were varied with more or less detail to suit different levels of production. In the present lot, notional interiors are indicated against diapered gold grounds or, in the case of Pentecost, eliminated entirely so that the figures appear against a textile hanging beneath burnished gold. The generous gilded borders, one adorning every written page, are further demonstrations that economies of time were not matched by economies of materials. Landscapes are more naturalistically detailed but still glinting with gold. The unusual setting for the penitent David, beside a river with three ships, is ultimately derived from van Eyck’s great Rolin Virgin (Paris, Louvre) as transmitted by the Dunois Master ( BL Yates Thompson ms 3, f.162).

The demand for the Master’s work encouraged the employment of assistants and probably imitation by independent illuminators. It seems possible that these miniatures were painted under his supervision since, in the best, the deft drawing of facial features follows his characteristic conventions.
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