BOOK OF HOURS, use of Soissons or Laon, in Latin and French, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Paris, c.1405]189 x 132mm. ii + 225 + iii leaves: 112, 28, 310, 46, 5-128, 134, 14-188, 194, 208, 216, 22-258, 267(of 6 + vii ), 27-298, a few small guide catchwords left on final versos, COMPLETE, 13 lines written in black ink in a gothic bookhand between two verticals and 14 horizontals ruled in red, justification: 88 x 55mm, prickings for horizontals and verticals remain on most leaves, rubrics in red, line endings in burnished gold on pink and blue grounds patterned in white, one-line initials in burnished gold flourished with dark blue or in blue flourished with red, numerous two- or three-line initials on gold grounds extending into partial vine leaf borders, THIRTY LARGE MINIATURES WITH FULL BORDERS of leaves in burnished gold, red and blue, some with small flowers, on painted stems or hairline tendrils, surrounding three-sided bars of burnished gold, pink and blue, some with dragon terminals (some wear to margins, slight rubbing to some borders, slight smudging to some miniatures). 15th-century tan leather over wooden boards stamped in blind with tools including a pelican, eagle, stag, fleur-de-lys and dragon, two metal studs to fasten straps, painted and gilded fore-edges (straps and metal attachments replaced, hinged sliding metal brackets applied at top and bottom of spine, joints cracked, wear with some losses to leather). Red solander box.
AN EARLY WORK BY THE MAZARINE MASTER, A FOUNDING FIGURE OF THE GREAT AGE OF PARISIAN MANUSCRIPT ILLUMINATION
1. From the style of illumination, the book was made in Paris, from the texts, for a patron in or from the area to the north-east around Soissons or Laon. The Office of the Dead, with only three lessons, is found in books from various areas, excluding Paris, but seems to have been favoured particularly in northern France and into the southern Netherlands. The calendar, not Parisian, includes saints revered in the dioceses of Soissons and Laon, such as Vedast and Amand (6 February), Medard (8 June), Crispin and Crispinian (25 October), Quentin (31 October), Nicaise (14 December), but none is in gold and all were popular over a wide area of northern France and the southern Netherlands. Quentin, of St-Quentin north of Soissons and Laon, is also in the suffrages and litany; other more local saints in the litany are from further north, such as Hermes and Celestine of Ronse in eastern Flanders, Ghislain of Mons in Hainault and Servatius of Tongeren and Maastricht. The owner may have had links with the Franciscan Order: Francis, but not Dominic, is in the litany and, most unusually at this date, Our Lady of the Snow, a feast promoted by the Franciscans, is in the Calendar as Nostre dame de la noif (5 August). Prayers are in the masculine.
2. There are offsets of pilgrims' badges or holy medals on the first endleaf. A prayer to St Sebastian has been added in a 16th-century hand on the final endleaf.
3. 'Pouget prêtre donum domini Huberti': inside the front cover in an 18th-century hand.
4. Sir Thomas Wright of Leicester (1836-1905): his gift to George Munson Curtis of Meriden, Connecticut (1857-1913) and by descent until sold at Sotheby's, 23 June 1987, lot 105.
Calendar ff.1-12; Gospel extracts ff.13-20: John f.13, Luke f.15, Matthew f.16v, Mark f.18v; Obsecro te ff.21-25v; O intemerata ff.26-30v; Mass of the Virgin ff.31-36v; Office of the Virgin ff.37-104v: matins f.37, lauds f.50v, prime f.63v, terce f.71, sext f.77, none f.81v, vespers f.88, compline f.97v; Penitential Psalms and Litany ff.105-127; Hours of the Cross ff.127v-138v; Hours of the Holy Spirit ff.139-148; Fifteen Joys of the Virgin, in French, ff.149-156; Seven Requests to Our Lord, titled 'cinq requestes' ff.156v-161; ruled blanks ff.161v-162v; Office of the Dead with three lessons ff.163-201v; Suffrages ff.202-224v: Sts Michael f.202, John the Baptist f.203v, Peter and Paul f.205, Stephen 206v, Lawrence f.208, Sebastian f.209v, Anthony Abbot f.211, Cosmas and Damian f.212v, Christopher f.214, Eutropius f.216, Quentin f.217v, Mary Magdalene f.219, Anne f.220v, Katherine f.222, Margaret f.223v, ruled blank, f.225.
The richly glowing miniatures are the work of the Mazarine Master, named from the Book of Hours in the Bibliothèque Mazarine in Paris, ms 469, perhaps commissioned by the Dauphin Louis de Guyenne. The Mazarine Master was one of the most innovative illuminators active in Paris in the first decades of the 15th century, the period of extraordinarily intense creativity that produced some of the greatest illuminated manuscripts. He was distinguished from the closely related Boucicaut Master by Gabriele Bartz who included the Arcana volume amongst his works (see Der Boucicaut-Meister ein unbekanntes Stundenbuch, Tenschert Katalog XLII, 1999, p.123, ills 15 and 33). In comparison with the Boucicaut Master, he demonstrates a greater sensitivity to shape and line, with more elegant figures and a smoother, more enamel-like paint-surface. Faces, as seen in the very first miniature of St John, f.13, are often subtly painted over green undermodelling.
The border decoration of the present lot indicates a date before the Master's two Books of Hours written in 1408, one now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS Douce 144, and one dispersed, of which three leaves also formed part of the Arcana Collection (sold in these rooms, 7 July 2010, lots 22-23). Although the Arcana volume is among the Mazarine Master's earliest works, his characteristic stylistic traits are already evident in these serenely composed miniatures, with gracefully contoured figures placed against decorative backgrounds of gold motifs or diaper. His backgrounds may have developed in conjunction with the Egerton Master, with whom he collaborated on the eponymous Book of Hours, BL, Egerton ms 1070, which came to be owned by René of Anjou (for this and other manuscripts cited above, see E. Taburet-Delahaye and F. Avril, Paris 1400, les arts sous Charles VI, 2004). The Egerton Master's influence may also be evident in the slightly less refined faces of the Magdalene and Christ on f.219 but the Arcana Hours is entirely coherent in style and shows the Mazarine Master already undertaking a major commission without an independent collaborator.
The subjects of the large miniatures are as follows: St John on Patmos f.13, the Annunciation f.37, the Visitation f.50v, the Nativity f.63v, the Annunciation to the Shepherds f.71, the Adoration of the Magi f.77, the Presentation in the Temple f.82v, the Flight into Egypt f.88, the Coronation of the Virgin f.97v, God in Majesty surrounded by symbols of the Old and New Laws and of the Evangelists f.105, the Crucifixion f.127v, Pentecost f.139, the Virgin enthroned with Child f.149, Christ of the Last Judgement f.156v, the Office of the Dead f.163, St Michael defeating the devil f.202, St John the Baptist with the Lamb of God f.203v, Sts Peter with the keys and Paul with sword f.205, the martyrdom of St Stephen 206v, St Lawrence with gridiron f.208, St Sebastian filled with arrows by an archer f.209v, St Anthony Abbot standing in flames for St Anthony's Fire f.211, Sts Cosmas and Damian with medicine jars f.212v, St Christopher carrying the Christ Child through water f.214, martyrdom of St Eutropius f.216, martyrdom of St Quentin f.217v, St Mary Magdalene not touching the Risen Christ f.219, St Anne with the young Virgin Mary f.220v, St Katherine holding her wheel f.222, St Margaret bursting from the dragon f.223v.