BOOK OF HOURS, use of Rennes, in Latin and French, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
168 x 122mm. ii + 238 + ii leaves: 1-26, 3-108, 116, 12-138, 146, 1510, 168, 176, 189(of 8 + ix),19-218, 2210, 23-308, 314, COMPLETE, catchwords in the lower margins of final versos, 15 lines written in brown ink in a lettre bâtarde between two verticals and 16 horizontals ruled in pink, justification: 87 x 60mm, rubrics in burnished gold or blue, text capitals touched with
yellow, one-line initials and line-endings in burnished gold on grounds of red and blue patterned with white, two- to four-line initials with blue staves patterned in white on grounds of burnished gold with foliate infills in blue and red, except for f.24 A BORDER ON EVERY TEXT PAGE in the outer side margin of acanthus leaves in blue and liquid gold and hairline tendrils linking small leaves in burnished gold and coloured flowers, TWELVE FULL BORDERS of similar type for the calendar, TWENTY-THREE LARGE ARCH-TOPPED MINIATURES in burnished gold frames surrounded by three-sided bars of burnished gold decorated with flowers or foliate designs and full borders either of similar type enlivened by birds or of compartments alternately of similar type and of naturalistic flower sprays on grounds of liquid gold (early replacement of coats of arms within large initials on ff.25, 36v, 64v, 69, some wear to a few leaves, small lightly pencilled modern annotation 'St Meen' for missing rubric f.203). Red velvet replacing tanned leather over contemporary wooden boards, marbled paper of c.1700 lining endleaves and pastedowns, overlaid with red silk on pastedowns (lacking two clasps, rubbed, extremities worn). Black half-morocco box.
AN IMMACULATE MANUSCRIPT ILLUMINATED BY THE COëTIVY MASTER
1. The Office of the Virgin is for the use of Rennes as is, probably, the Office of the Dead, which is the only recorded instance of this variant (see Ottosen). The owner's origins in Brittany are further supported by the very rare memorials to the Breton saints Huerveus (Hervé) and Mennanus (Méen), founder of the Abbey that bears his name near Rennes; the Anianus commemorated may be the Breton saint Iunan, original patron of St-Aignan between Brest and Rennes. Another very individual inclusion is Agrippanus, who gave his name to St-Agrève in the Ardèche, a devotion resulting from some other family association or personal event. Prayers are in the masculine. A coat of arms, presumably the patron's, originally appeared in the large initials on ff.25, 36, 64v and 69. From the style of the miniatures and delicately painted borders, the book was made in Paris: its calendar is largely Parisian. There were several Bretons prominent at the royal court, which still looked to Paris for illuminated manuscripts despite the new centres of Tours and Bourges. Among them was Olivier de Coëtivy who commissioned the book of hours which gives this illuminator his name of the Coëtivy Master (Vienna, ÖNB, cod 1929). The owner of this luxuriously individual book probably came from the same circle.
2. Some pencilled annotations on endleaves; Paris, Edouard Rahir, 19-21 May 1937, no 1372; Lyon, Lardanchet, catalogue 43, 1939, no 1253.
Calendar with St Genevieve in gold (3 January) ff.1-12; Gospel extracts ff.13-19v; Obsecro te ff.20-24; Office of the Virgin, use of Rennes, ff.25-82: matins f.25, lauds f.36v, prime f.48v, terce f.55, sext f.60, none f.64v, vespers f.69, compline f.76v; Hours of the Cross ff.83-90v; Hours of the Holy Spirit ff.91-97v; Hours of the Dead ff.98-104v; Penitential Psalms, each with a devotional sequence relating it to an appropriate deadly sin, ff.105-130; Litany, ff.130-136v; Office of the Dead, ?use of Rennes, ff.137-189; Suffrages to the Trinity, the Cross, for peace, the Virgin, Sts John the Evangelist, Eutropius, Claud, Maturin, Adrian, Huervius, Agrippanus, the Cross and invoking the protection of the names of God and of the sign of the Cross for N portator huius carte, Sts John the Baptist, Michael, Nicholas, Anianus, Mennanus, Sebastian, Katherine, Margaret, Apollonia, to the Virgin and on her feasts, Sts Anne, Mary Magdalene, Andrew, Peter and Paul, Martin, Christopher, Julian, Vincent, Stephen, Lawrence, Anthony Abbot, Fiacre, Francis, Eligius, Maur, All Saints ff.190-222v; Passion according to St John ff.222v-224v; prayers ff.224v-236v: to the Virgin f.224v, with verses of St Bernard f.229v, attributed to Bede on the Seven Last Words from the Cross f.231v, in preparation for, and during, mass f.233v.
The miniatures of this generously illustrated Book of Hours are by the Coëtivy Master, whose illustrious clients included Louis XI's brother, Charles of France. He worked as a painter on panel -- the dramatic Raising of Lazarus in the Louvre, as a designer of stained glass -- for St Severin in Paris -- and as a designer of tapestries -- the Troy set to be seen in royal courts across Europe. Described as the third great figure in the visual arts around the French court with Jean Fouquet and Barthélemy d'Eyck, he has most recently been identified with Colin d'Amiens, recorded in Paris 1461-88. Colin's only documented work, a monumental stone Entombment group carved by Adrien Wincart in 1495-6 to his design, is compatible with the oeuvre assembled for the Coëtivy Master but cannot conclusively prove the identification (Avril and Reynaud, pp.58-69; D. Thiébaut et al, Primitifs français, Découvertes et redécouvertes, 2004, pp.97-102).
The Coëtivy Master is famed for his expressive painterly technique and eloquent figures, evident in all these miniatures, and for his atmospheric landscapes, seen in the peaceful surroundings of St John's exile on Patmos f.13, the shepherds' pastures articulated by strategically placed huddles of sheep f.55, or the night skies and choppy waters oppressing St Christopher f.215v. His mastery of composition allowed him to present narrative with great clarity and impact, as in the touching scene of the Magdalene at the feet of Christ f.212. If indeed the Master was Colin d'Amiens, his father, Nicolas d'Ypres, had joined Rogier van der Weyden and Robert Campin in the Tournai painters' guild in 1428 before moving to Paris in 1444, while Colin had presumably spent some time in Amiens to acquire his name. Contact with van der Weyden would explain the compelling figure of St Michael, who defeats the Devil in an apparently simple yet dramatic play of shapes f.201.
The stark austerity of that design is typical of the Master's mature style. Compared to his earlier Hours for Olivier de Coëtivy, the colour is more subtle and complex and the figures more elegant and less squat. The Master continued to draw on his stock of earlier patterns but invested them with greater impact: the Virgin suckling the Child in the Arcana Hours, f.20, is a development of that in the Hours for the use of St John of Jerusalem, dated to c.1460 (BnF, ms lat.1400, f.24v, Avril and Reynaud pp.59-60). In the later version, the Master has boldly turned the Christ Child away from the viewer, eliminated the attendant angels and used gold more sparingly. The texture of the velvet throne covering is brilliantly suggested by his characteristically broken strokes of paint that serve further to indicate the fall of light across the different surfaces. Development is also evident in the borders since this is one of the earliest Parisian examples of the use of divided grounds with liquid gold.
The Coëtivy Master was a major force across the visual arts in France: painting on panel and parchment, stained glass, tapestry and sculpture. The Arcana Hours demonstrates his mastery not just as a painter of exquisite miniatures but as a true illuminator, responsible for books that are beautiful in every aspect of their design.
The subjects of the miniatures are as follows:
f.13 St John on Patmos
f.20 The Virgin with Child enthroned
f.25 The Annunciation
f.36v The Visitation
f.48 The Nativity
f.55 The Annunciation to the Shepherds
f.60 The Adorationof the Magi
f.64v The Presentation in the Temple
f.69 The Flight into Egypt
f.76v The Coronation of the Virgin
f.83 The Crucifixion
f.98 The Trinity
f.105 David in penitence
f.137 Burial in a Churchyard
f.190 Christ of the Last Judgement with the Instruments of the Passion f.196 St Adrian
f.201 St Michael
f.203v St Sebastian
f.205 St Katherine
f.212 The Magdalene anointing Christ's feet
f.215v St Christopher
f.220 St Francis
BIBLIOGRAPHY FOR THIS MANUSCRIPT:
L. Randall, Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Walters Art Gallery, II France 1420-1540, 1992, I p.163.
F. Avril and N. Reynaud, Les manuscrits à peintures en France 1460-1520, 1993, p.67.
K. Ottosen, The Responsaries and Versicles of the Latin Office of the Dead, 1993, p.162, B735, p.311.