4 June 2008
HISTORIATED BORDER OF BOYS ON HOBBYHORSES, leaf from a Book of Hours, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[southern Netherlands, c.1490]133 x 100 mm. 17 lines written in brown ink in an elegant lettre bâtarde between two verticals and 18 horizontals ruled in brown, justification: 85 x 60 mm, text capitals touched yellow, one large initial with acanthus staves on a grey ground with an infill of periwinkles opening the prayer O bone jesu o piissime jesu..., a full border showing three boys on hobby-horses, two tilting, watched by an angel, in a landscape before an ecclesiastical building (some rubbing to border and initial, small stain on text, trimmed to ruled framing of border at top and right side).
The border has no obvious relevance to the accompanying popular prayer which asks for Christ's mercy for forgiveness of sins and for eternal life. The presence of the angel might suggest that one of the boys is the Christ Child but no such episode is recounted in the apocryphal stories of Christ's infancy. Perhaps he is a guardian angel, watching over the individual soul from cradle to grave. Whereas figures with hobby-horses are found in the margins of manuscripts from the 13th century, this is a far more realistic depiction, where the boys tilt with specially capped sticks, for safety, rather than the windmill toys often brandished by hobby-horse riders. The scene appears as if continuous behind the overlaying text: such unified pictorial borders were developed and popularised in the southern Netherlands in the final quarter of the fifteenth century by the Master of Mary of Burgundy, the Master of the Older Prayerbook of Maximilian and Simon Marmion.
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