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[Netherlands, c.1530]93 x 64mm. 29 + 4 leaves: 12, 23(of 2 + i), 3-52, 63(of 2 + i), 7-132, 142(singleton + ii added), 163 (added, of 4, lacking iii, iv former pastedown), 2, 6 and 10 are apparently true bifolia, whereas some others are apparently two singletons mounted together, 58 FULL-PAGE MINIATURES in arch-topped frames with black surrounds, three with captions written in white in a gothic bookhand, four added leaves with two pages of 14 lines written in brown ink in a gothic bookhand between two verticals and 15 horizontals ruled in ink, justification: 58 x 43mm, large initial in blue flourished with red, TWO FULL-PAGE MINIATURES (slight wear to some miniatures, radiance with dove of Holy Ghost scraped from f.1, losses to sky f.28v and background f.29, water damage to final miniature and facing text page with large initial ff.31v-32). 20th-century crimson velvet, metal clasp.

1. The sequence of miniatures was painted by an artist with access to compositions originated in the circle of Simon Marmion, the Master of the First Prayerbook of Maximilian, the Master of the Dresden Prayerbook and the Master of Mary of Burgundy, which were reinvigorated by Simon Bening (1483-1561), active in Bruges from 1500 (for Bening and the manuscripts cited below, see T. Kren and S. McKendrick, Illuminating the Renaissance, the Triumph of Flemish Manuscript Painting in Europe, 2003, esp. pp.447-87). The style, however, is more indicative of the northern Netherlands, showing some influence from illuminators active in Leiden c.1500 (see H. Defoer, A. Korteweg and W. Wüstefeld, The Golden Age of Dutch Manuscript Painting, 1989, pp.285-300). The same hand may have been responsible for the miniatures integral to a prayer book in Dutch from the northern Netherlands, where Bening's influence has also been noted (Darmstadt, Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek, ms 1962, see G. Achten und H. Knaus, Deutsche und niederländische Gebetbuchhandschriften der Hessischen Landes- und Hochschulbibliothek, Darmstadt, I, 1959, no 8).

The added leaves, with the Dutch prayer, come from a small prayer book that probably originated in the northern Netherlands; the prominence given to St Norbert of Xanten, founder of the Premonstratensians, suggests that its first owner was associated with the order, perhaps a lay person admitted to a fraternity with a local abbey. It is not clear at what point these leaves joined the picture cycle. All the leaves were together, when first known in the Six Collection.

2. Professor Jan Six van Hillegom (1857-1926), art historian and member of the Amsterdam family famed for its patronage of art since the time of Rembrandt: his sale, Frederik Muller, Amsterdam, 17 October 1928, when bought back by a member of the family.

3. Sotheby's, 18 June 1991, lot 141, when unbound; to Maggs; Maggs, Bulletin, 18, 1993, no 31.

The miniatures of this exceptional series are presented as small independent paintings in fictive frames of gilded wood, their rich colours glowing against the black surrounds. While entire books written and illuminated on black-washed parchment were produced in the southern Netherlands, the setting of fully coloured, framed miniatures against black is more typical of luxurious French manuscripts, among them the Grandes heures of the Queen, Anne of Brittany, illuminated by Jean Bourdichon. In the Netherlands, miniatures for insertion in books were usually painted on the versos of single leaves, to be bound facing a recto of text, as in the prayer book to which the four added leaves belonged; otherwise miniatures were painted in spaces left by the scribe and were integral with the text. There was great demand for independent paintings on parchment, not necessarily intended for binding, but it seems that these were also on single leaves and mostly one-sided for practical reasons.

Double-sided full-page miniatures are extremely rare in the 15th and 16th centuries: a set of twelve slightly smaller leaves with 24 colour washed pen drawings from the lower Rhineland, dated to c.1500, was sold at Sotheby's, 18 June, 1991, lot 153. Since some, if not all, of the leaves of the present lot were binions, they were presumably intended for binding in some form: rubbing to the black in the gutters indicates an earlier binding. The pictures could have been used to accompany prayers on the Life and Passion of Christ, perhaps centred around the Rosarium or Rosary devotion, for which Simon Bening produced at least three sets of miniatures (Dublin, Chester Beatty Library, Ms W 99; Sotheby's 6 July 200, lot 57; Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum and Boston, Public Library); a follower of Bening was responsible for a set of 29 miniatures, with Flemish text on the reverses, where some compositions like Christ and the Woman of Samaria are almost identical to those in the present lot. These may have come from a more ad hoc collection of prayers on the Life and Passion of Christ, similar to those in the book in Darmstadt or the Dutch prayer book with 52 colour-washed drawings by the Leiden Masters of Hugo Janszoen van Woerden, sold in these rooms 21 June, 1989, lot 35. Such collections were especially popular in the northern Netherlands and Germany: the text of the Passion Prayer Book commissioned by Albrecht of Brandenburg from Simon Bening was taken from a printed book published in Augsburg in 1521 (J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms Ludwig IX 19) and many sets of engravings or woodcuts were available for those who wanted the life of Christ in a portable and adaptable form.

The commissioner of the present manuscript wanted a completely individual, hand-crafted set of paintings of exceptional number. Binions with four full-page miniatures could not easily have been integrated with pages of text and the miniatures may have been intended to function independently of texts, like the panel paintings they imitate. Alternatively, their original assemblage may have been more like that of much earlier luxurious Psalters, where sequences of full-page miniatures precede the texts. Determining their original format is not helped by the difficulty of determining some of their subjects, given the elaborations of the Life of Christ in popular devotional literature that aimed to reconcile discrepancies between the Gospels. The sequence can never have been in complete chronological conformity with the Gospel narratives: the Temptation ought to follow, not precede, the Baptism; the Entry into Jerusalem, f.11, ought to come between the Transfiguration and the Cleansing of the Temple depicted on f.10 recto and verso. In other cases, it is possible that leaves have been misbound: f.11v, probably showing Christ taking leave of his Mother, would be more logically bound as the recto so that the Entry to Jerusalem, as the verso, could be followed by Christ's meeting with his Mother and the Magdalen in Jerusalem, f.12; Christ appeared first after his Resurrection to his Mother so that f.26 should follow f.27.

In other instances, the illuminator, or the caption writer, may have been confused by their models. Christ before Annas, shown tearing his robes, f.15v, derives from Simon Bening's miniature of Christ before Caiaphas in the Passion Prayerbook of Albrecht of Brandenburg, datable between 1521 and 1530 - it was Caiaphas, according to Matthew, who tore his robes with rage. The source for Christ before Caiaphas in the present lot is Bening's Christ before Annas in the Brandenburg Prayerbook, a composition developed from a type found in the earlier La Flora Hours (Naples, Biblioteca nazionale. Ms I B 51), which well represents the stock of patterns subsequently available to Bening. Another motif found in the La Flora Hours is the white overgarment worn by Christ on ff.17v and 18: according to Luke, Herod clad Christ in a magnificent robe before sending him back to Pilate. The torrents of blood washing Christ's body as his torments progress is a characteristic of Bening's treatment of the Passion, seen notably in the Stein Quadriptych with its 64 miniatures of the Life of Christ (Baltimore, Walters Art Gallery).

This outstanding series of 58 miniatures embodies both contemporary devotional practice and one response of illuminators to the printing press: to focus exclusively on images and so create a whole gallery of pictures within the cover of a book.

The subjects of the miniatures are as follows:
f.1 The Coronation of the Virgin
f.1v The Fall: Adam taking the apple from Eve
f.2 The Expulsion from Eden
f.2v The Annunciation
f.3 The Visitation
f.3v The Nativity
f.4 The Annunciation to the Shepherds
f.4v The Circumcision
f.5 The Adoration of the Magi
f.5v The Presentation in the Temple
f.6 The Massacre of the Innocents
f.6v The Flight into Egypt
f.7 Christ among the Doctors in the Temple
f.7v The Temptation
f.8 The Baptism
f.8v Christ and the Woman of Samaria
f.9 Mary Magdalene anointing Christ's feet
f.9v The Raising of Lazarus
f.10 The Cleansing of the Temple
f.10v The Transfiguration
f.11 Christ entering Jerusalem
f.11v ?Christ saying farewell to his Mother
f.12 ?Christ greeting his Mother and the Magdalen in Jerusalem
f.12v The Last Supper
f.13 Christ washing the Apostles' feet
f.13v The Agony in the Garden
f.14 Christ waking the Apostles
f.14v The Arrest of Christ
f.15 Christ led captive to Jerusalem
f.15v Christ before Annas, captioned Annas
f.16 Christ before Caiaphas, captioned Cayphas
f.16v Christ buffeted
f.17 Christ before Pilate, captioned Pylatus
f.17v Christ led away from Herod, captioned Herodes
f.18 Christ before Pilate, captioned Herodes
f.18v The Flagellation
f.19 The Crowning with Thorns
f.19v Ecce homo
f.20 Pilate washing his hands, captioned Pylatus
f.20v The Carrying of the Cross with St Veronica
f.21 The Disrobing of Christ
f.21v Christ seated on the Cold Stone
f.22 The Nailing to the Cross
f.22v The Raising of the Cross
f.23 The Crucifixion
f.23v The Descent from the Cross
f.24 The Lamentation
f.24v The Harrowing of Hell
f.25 The Entombment
f.25v The Virgin, St John and the Magdalen praying at the foot of the Cross
f.26 The Three Maries at the Sepulchre
f.26v Christ appearing to the Magdalen
f.27 The Resurrection
f.27v The Resurrected Christ appearing to his Mother
f.28 The Supper at Emmaus
f.28v The Ascension
f.29 Pentecost
f.29v The Last Judgement

The subjects of the added miniatures are as follows:
f.30v St Michael defeating Satan
f.31v All Saints: James, Barbara, John the Evangelist and Francis grouped around Norbert
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