BOOK OF HOURS, in Latin and Dutch, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Flanders, possibly Bruges, c.1438]
196 x 135mm. ii paper + ii + 128 + iv leaves: mostly in gatherings of 8, with miniatures on inserted singletons, likely lacking 2 inserted leaves with miniatures before ff.49 and 118, catchwords in lower margins of final versos of some gatherings, 21 lines written in brown ink in a gothic bookhand between two verticals and 22 horizontals ruled in pink, rubrics in red, versal initials touched red, one-line initials alternately of blue with red penwork flourishing and of burnished gold flourished black, two- to four-line initials of burnished gold on grounds and infills of pink and blue with white decoration, TWO LARGE INITIALS with pink staves on blue and burnished gold grounds with trefoil sprays in the infill and accompanying single border of bar and foliate sprays in burnished gold, TWENTY-TWO LARGE INITIALS WITH FULL-PAGE BORDERS made up of three-quarter baguettes surrounded by sprays of naturalistic flowers, fruit, acorns and blue, green, orange and red acanthus interspersed with hairline tendrils with golden leaves, TWENTY FULL-PAGE ARCH-TOPPED MINIATURES WITH SIMILAR FULL-PAGE BORDERS (occasional smudging, darkening of vellum or staining, noticeably to margin of f.1, slight cropping to outer edge of a few borders, some fading or loss of pigment, noticeably to the Virgin's robe in some miniatures, to the cushion in the Pentecost miniature and God the Father in the Agony in the Garden). 17th-century blind-stamped vellum boards, the panelled covers with central lozenge-shaped cartouche and floral cornerpieces, lettered on spine in ink (light surface wear and stain). Modern box.
1. The generalised calendar in Dutch and the litany include saints appropriate to the southern Netherlands, including Sts Bavo (1 October) and St Donatian (14 October) in red. Of note is St Houdeburghe in red on 4 August, which may refer to St Walburga. The devotional requirements of the original owner have been accommodated by a careful selection of prayers in Dutch.
2. Prayers in Latin have been added in a near contemporary hand on blank leaves, with spaces left for large initials.
3. Three ownership inscriptions on the first blank vellum leaf chart the history of this Hours in the 16th century. The first refers to Helena Denys, alive in 1545 as the widow of Jan du Quesnoyt, who is living in Antwerp in the Steenhouwers Vest and promises a reward of wine for the safe return of her book: 'Item desen bouck hoort towe de Huysvrouwe Jans du Kenoyt Tot antv[er]pen wonnende of de steenhouwers vesten so wien vint die gheslen weder en men sal gherne de wyn scincken'. Since 'huysvrouwe', and the proper names of the address are written in a different script over erasures, the book presumably belonged to Jan du Quesnoyt himself or a named first wife at an earlier address.
The second refers to Anna van Grevenbroeck (d.1577), since 1564 the third wife of Jan van den Dycke (d.1572), councillor in the Chambre des comptes in Brussels, where they were both buried in the church of the Sablon; among the many lordships he had accumulated was that of Zandvliet by Antwerp. Jan van den Dycke's first wife, married in 1525, was Johanna Maria van der Genst (d.1541), the mother of Charles V's illegitimate daughter, Margaret, Duchess of Parma and Governor of the Netherlands for Philip II 1559-1567; the couple had nine children who benefitted from their royal connection. Jan van den Dycke's second wife, married in 1545, was Cecile, heiress of Jan du Quesnoyt and Helena Denys, who bore him no children, so that he could pass her mother's book of hours to his third wife, who was also childless (see F. van der Taelen, 'Notices sur Jeanne-Marie van der Genst, mère de Marguerite d'Autriche', Annales de l'Académie d'archéologie de Belgique, XXXIV, 1878, pp.295-355): 'Nu der huysvrouwen Mr Jans vanden Dycke Raet Anna van Grevenbroeck'.
The third, dated the year after Anna's death, refers to Barbara van Greuenbroeck, possibly her sister since Erasmus Joannes van Grevenbroeck, lord of Mierlo in North Brabant (d.1532), had daughters with these names from his marriage c.1520 to Barbara Martensdr. Barbara was the wife of François Resen, from 1550 bailiff of the land and town of Tholen, north of Antwerp in Zeeland; in 1579 he and Tholen joined William of Orange (for François, son of Pieter Resen and Margaret Vos van Cortenbach, see the Nieuw Nederlands Biographisch Woordenboek, VII, 1044): 'Nu toebehoernde barbara van grevebroe... huysvrauwe van franschois Rezen balliu... lande en stat vandenthoel 1578'.
A line from Ovid has been written on the blank verso in a 16th-century hand before the calendar ('Donec eris felix multos numerabis amicos Tempora si fuerint nubila solus eris')
Calendar ff.1-3v; table for determining Easter in the years 1438 to 1458 f.4; notes to determine advent and church feasts f.4v; Weekday Hours and votive masses: Sunday of the Trinity ff.6-12; Monday of the Dead ff.14-18v; Tuesday of the Holy Spirit ff.20-24v; Wednesday of All Saints ff.26-31; Thursday of the Holy Sacrament ff.33-37v; Friday of the Cross ff.39-43v; Saturday of the Virgin ff.45-48; added prayer f.48v; Mass of Our Lady, in Dutch ff.49-51v; Gospel extracts, in Dutch ff.52-53v; Hours of the Virgin, in Dutch, unidentified use, ff.55-85v: matins f.55, lauds f.61, prime f.67, terce f.70, sext f.73, none f.76, vespers f.79, compline f.83; Seven Penitential Psalms and Litany ff.87-94v; prayers to be said at points during the Mass, in Dutch ff.96-102; Seven Last Words of Our Lord, in Dutch ff.104-105v; Fifteen Joys of the Virgin, in Dutch ff.108-111v; rhymed prayer, and indulgences, in Dutch ff.113-117v; indulgenced prayer on the Passion, in Dutch ff.118-121v; prayer to God the Father, in Dutch ff.122-124v; prayer attributed to St Augustine, in Dutch ff.125-128v; final three blanks with added prayer, 'Gaude flore virginali', large initials not supplied.
Both the volume's construction and its style of illumination are consistent with conventions of book production in Bruges in the second quarter of the 15th century. Large miniatures on inserted single leaves face large initials, forming double-page openings with matching full-page borders. The bright, appealing palette adopted in the miniatures is echoed in the reddish oranges, blues, pinks and bright greens found in the border foliage. A further link to the decorative forms in the borders is provided by the illuminator's appealing way of enlivening grassy grounds with symmetrically fronded plants in green and yellow. His miniature compositions often follow established designs by the Masters of the Gold Scrolls, active in Bruges from c.1420-1450, as seen in the Agony in the Garden with its emphatically enclosing fence. Although the decorative backgrounds that gave the Masters their name are also a feature of these miniatures, the elongated figures with their tubular draperies are less typical and seem more closely related to the style associated with Claes Brouwer, the illuminator who apparently moved from Utrecht to Bruges in the 1430s. For these illuminators, see A. Arnould and J.M. Massing, Splendours of Flanders, 1993, pp.116-25; M. Smeyers, Flemish miniatures, 1999, pp.230, 234-241).
The Easter table allows this manuscript to be dated to 1438 or soon afterwards, making it one of the few datable examples of Bruges illumination in the first half of the century. With its vivid colouring and simplified compositions, it has an engagingly direct appeal, seen most endearingly in the miniature of the Descent of the Holy Spirit, shown hurtling down towards a reassuringly large floor cushion held by angels. Bruges book producers were geared to the export market and this hours may have been intended for someone outside the town, who wanted a particularly extensive sequence of devotions and a lavish cycle of miniatures.
The subjects of the miniatures are as follows:
f.13v Office of the Dead chanted over a coffin
f.19v The descent of the Holy Spirit from God the Father towards a large floor cushion held by two angels
f.25v All Saints grouped either side of the Virgin
f.32v The consecrated host in a gold monstrance held by two angels
f.44v Death of the Virgin
f.54v Virgin and Child seated before a cloth of honour held by angels f.60v Agony in the Garden
f.69v Christ brought before Pilate
f.75v Christ carrying the Cross
f.78v Descent from the Cross
f.86v Christ of the Last Judgement
f.112v The crowned Virgin, seated beside and being blessed by Christ