BOOK OF HOURS, in Dutch, use of Utrecht, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Arnhem and Zwolle, c.1470]
133 x 99mm. i paper + 224 leaves + iii paper: 15(?of 8 lacking i and ii, cancelled blanks, and iv), 28, 39(of 8 + ii, i unruled ?replacement for cancelled blank), 4-58, 69(of 8 + viii), 78, 89(of 8 + ii), 99(of 8 + viii), 109(of8 + vii), 11-128, 139(of 8 + viii), 148, 159(of 8 + viii), 168(originally 9, of 8 + vii, lacking viii), 1710(of 8 + iii and viii), 18-248, 259(of 8 + vi), 2610(of 8 + iv and viii), 277(of 6 + i), 15 lines written in dark brown ink in a gothic bookhand between two verticals and 16 horizontals ruled in grey, justification 74 x 52mm, rubrics in red with a few in blue and burnished gold, text capitals touched red, one-line initials in blue or burnished gold, two-line initials in blue flourished with red or in burnished gold flourished with purple, the flourishing extending into much of side margin, TWENTY-FOUR VERY LARGE INITIALS WITH STAVES OF BURNISHED GOLD OR COLOURED FOLIAGE ON CONTRASTING GOLD OR COLOURED GROUNDS WITH BORDERS OR BARS TO ALL OR THREE MARGINS of sprays of flowers and leaves in burnished gold and colours on feathery stems in brown or gold, most with bars of burnished gold, some linking large flower motifs, FOURTEEN RECTANGULAR OR ARCH-TOPPED FULL-PAGE MINIATURES IN BURNISHED GOLD FRAMES WITH FULL BORDERS of acanthus and flower sprays between hairline tendrils with burnished gold leaves and small coloured flowers (lacking two leaves and probably seven inserted single leaves with miniatures, three of the inserted miniatures in the Office of the Virgin probably not in original position, slight wear to some leaves, some offsetting, trimmed into border f.230v). 19th-century black morocco stamped in blind, gilt edges (slightly rubbed). Red morocco solander box gilt.
1. The pen flourishing and striking style of the illuminated text pages show that the manuscript was written and decorated in Arnhem, probably by the nuns of the convent of Bethany. There was no miniaturist among them so that many of their books were illustrated by paste-in prints. This volume is far more luxurious, since it has miniatures and their borders by the Masters of the Zwolle Bible, active in Zwolle, who decorated books for Utrecht and elsewhere. The first owner was female, as shown by the form of 'sinner' in the prayer on f.208v, mi arme sundersche. The Hours of the Virgin vary slightly from the use of Utrecht as translated by Geert Grote but the calendar is significantly different with major feasts in red of the diocese of Cologne: Sts Pantaleon (28 July), Victor (10 October), 11,000 Virgins (21 October), Severinus (23 October), Cunibert (12 November). A patron to the south towards Cologne might be part of the explanation for the book's presence in Nuremberg in the early 19th century. There are offsets and stitching holes on the first leaf from pilgrim badges.
2. Robert Hale Blagdon Hale of Alderley, Gloucs (1780-1855): 'R.H.B. Hale, Nuremberg 1823', signature on first endleaf.
3. Edouard Sandoz: armorial bookplate inside upper cover, probably by the artist Edouard Marcel Sandoz (1881-1971), for himself or possibly his father, Edouard Sandoz (1853-1928). It is unclear whether Sandoz's ownership pre- or pot-dated 1931.
4. Quaritch, Catalogue of Illuminated and Other Manuscripts, 1931, no 59; pencil marks on first endleaf.
Ruled blank f.1; Calendar, lacking leaf for January, ff.2-12v; ruled blank f.13; unruled blank f.14; Office of the Virgin, in the Dutch translation of Geert Grote, with a few variants, ff.16-79v: matins f.16, lauds f.28, prime f.41, terce f.47, sext (with incorrect rubric for vespers) f.52, none f.58, vespers f.62, compline f.73; Penitential Psalms ff.81-99; litany ff.99-104v; Long Hours of the Cross ff.106-149v; Office of the Dead, use of Utrecht, ff.151-203; Suffrages ff.205-220: St Erasmus f.205, St Christopher f.208, the Three Kings f.212, St Cornelius f.216, St Hubert f.219; prayer to the Virgin, Sancta maria een ioncfrouwe boven allen, ff.220v-224v.
This finely crafted volume is indeed part of The Golden Age of Dutch Manuscript Painting, since it brings together two of the most gifted workshops in the northern Netherlands in the second half of the 15th century: the Masters of the Zwolle Bible, responsible for the miniatures with their refined piety, and the Masters of Margriet Uutenham, who provided the richly gilded decoration and inventive patterning of the text pages. As an outstanding example of their work, the manuscript formed part of the exhibition of that name in Utrecht and New York in 1989-1990 (see below).
The Masters of Margriet Uutenham, named from Margriet's Book of Hours (Sotheby's, 2 December 2002, lot 79), should be renamed the Mistresses if they are correctly identified with the Augustinian Canonesses of Bethany, whose activity as scribes is documented from 1451; the style of Margriet's Hours flourished c.1460-1480 (see also Genie ohne Namen; Weekes). The Masters of the Zwolle Bible were named from the Bible written for St Mary's, Utrecht, between 1462 and 1476 by one of the Brethren of the Common Life in Zwolle, who probably also provided the illumination. Bethany belonged to the Windesheim Congregation, the formalised conventual proponents of the Devotio moderna followed by the Brethren, which stressed the humanity of Christ. Both forms of community supported themselves, often by book production, and avoided ostentation while believing that beautiful adjuncts to worship honoured God. The present Hours is an eloquent embodiment of their ethos: the restrained colours and uncluttered settings of the miniatures, structured around firm verticals, focus attention on the figures and their interactions, while the more assertively lavish borders proclaim the book's significance.
Both groups drew on prints for motifs, figures or compositions. The Presentation and the Flight into Egypt (ff.57v, 72v), for example, come from the blockbook Biblia pauperum, while both Zwolle and Uutenham Masters used engravings by Master E.S. and Israel van Meckenem; no source has yet been suggested for the striking columbines, f.63 (see Budde and Krischel; Weekes).
Women painters are known to have been active throughout the Netherlands but their work can seldom be identified. The Sisters of Bethany seem to have evolved a very distinctive style that matched in accomplishment the expressive miniatures of the Brethren in Zwolle.
The subjects of the miniatures are as follows:
f.15v The Visitation
f.46v The Nativity
f.57v The Flight into Egypt
f.72v The Presentation in the Temple
f.80v The Last Judgement
f.105v The Agony in the Garden
f.123v The Betrayal and Arrest of Christ
f.131v The Mocking of Christ
f.135v The Flagellation
f.140v The Crucifixion
f.204v The Martyrdom of St Erasmus
f.211v The Adoration of the Magi
f.215v St Cornelius
f.218v St Hubert
The large initials with illuminated borders are on ff.16, 28, 41, 47, 52, 58, 63, 73, 81, 99, 106, 117v, 124, 127, 136, 141, 146, 151, 205, 208, 212, 216, 219, 220v.
BIBLIOGRAPHY FOR THIS MANUSCRIPT:
H. Defoer, A. Korteweg and W. Wüstefeld, The Golden Age of Dutch Manuscript Painting, 1989, no 88, pl.88, fig.141.
exh. cat. Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne, Genie ohne Namen, der Meister des Bartholomäus-Altars, 2001, pp.268-269, no 8.
R. Budde and R. Krischel eds, Das Stundenbuch der Sophia van Bylant, Cologne 2001, pp.183, 185, 198, 205-207.
U. Weekes, Early Engravers and their Public, 2004, p.148.