HOURS AND FERIAL PSALTER, use of Langres, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Langres or Troyes] 1463, with later additions
185 x 135mm. 261 leaves, including 1 blank, COMPLETE: 112, 2-38, 412, 59 (8 + iv), 610, 78, 89 (8 + i), 9-308, 316, 323 (of 4, iv cancelled blank), 332, original foliation in red ink arabic numerals 1-201 starting at the Hours of the Virgin and skipping from 109-120 without loss of leaves, the first 20 leaves here referred to as ff.[i]-[xx] and the final leaves as ff.-, vertical catchwords survive in most quires, written in an elegant bâtarde script in brown ink at least partly by the documented scribe Pierre Rouche, between two verticals and 25 horizontals ruled in pink ink, justification: 110 x 75mm, rubrics in red, paragraph marks and line-endings in gold, red, and blue with white ornament, one- and two-line initials throughout in gold on a ground of red and blue with white ornament, occasional three-line initials with partial borders, TWELVE SMALL HISTORIATED INITIALS, four or five lines high, EACH ACCOMPANIED BY A THREE-SIDED BORDER of stylised and semi-naturalistic foliage and flowers in colours and gold, SEVEN LARGE HISTORIATED INITIALS, seven or eight lines high, EACH ACCOMPANIED BY A FULL BORDER, TWENTY-FOUR SMALL MINIATURES in the calendar, THIRTEEN LARGE MINIATURES ACCOMPANIED BY FULL BORDERS of various designs, including flowers and foliage, naturalistic animals (bat, monkey, donkey, cat, dog, frog, etc.), birds (peacock, stork, etc.), and insects (dragonfly, beetle, snail, etc.), as well as dragons, fantastic fighting beasts, and little scenes, the added sections in a variety of gothic and humanistic-influenced scripts, decorated mostly with plain blue or red initials (general signs of thumbing and wear throughout, some losses of pigment in miniatures, and occasional offsets from facing pages, the upper margin of the blank f.232 excised). Late 16th-century olive morocco with gilt panels, flat spine with gilt panel, the centre of each cover with a foliate lozenge enclosing the letters 'CHAR/LOTTE' and 'DE./CARRV/EL.', head- and tail-bands with green and blue silk and gilt metal threads, the leaves with gilt edges, two later clasps, small leather thumb-tabs at the fore-edge of leaves with major decoration (corners expertly repaired, the joints splitting). Red cloth box with gilt morocco spine.
THE LITTLE-KNOWN MASTERPIECE OF A 'VISIONARY TALENT', 'ONE OF THE MOST FASCINATING AND MYSTERIOUS PERSONALITIES OF FRENCH FIFTEENTH-CENTURY MANUSCRIPT ILLUMINATION'
1. Written and illuminated in 1463, apparently for a canon of Langres cathedral, perhaps a member of the Jouvenal des Ursins family. The text is dated 1463 on the final page, and signed 'P. Ro.' by the scribe Pierre Rouche (f.144v), who also wrote and signed in the same way a superb copy of Nicholas of Lyra's Postilla in seven volumes from c.1464 to c.1472 for Guy Bernard, bishop of Langres (1454-81) (Avril and Reynaud, pp.52, 183-4). All the variable textual parts of the original text including the Hours of the Virgin and Office of the Dead are for the use of Langres; the calendar includes Gregory of Langres and his translation (4 January, 6 November), Didier of Langres and his translation (23 May, 19 January), the feast of the relics at Langres cathedral (30 July), Mammes of Langres and his translation (17 August, 10 October and octave), the dedication of the cathedral of Langres (26 August and octave). The litany includes Mammes and Didier among the martyrs. A large proportion of the text, including the ferial psalter and the common of saints are texts that would not be used by a lay person, suggesting that the volume was made for a canon of the cathedral. The scribe is known to have worked for the bishop of Langres, and the artist for various patrons in Troyes, including the important Jouvenal des Ursins family, one of whose members, Jean, was Archbishop of Rheims from 1449 to 1473 (cf. below). The erased arms on f.1 might conceivably be a very simplified version - because of its minuscule size, 4 x 4mm - of the Jouvenal des Ursins heraldry.
2. Apparently in use at Rheims cathedral in the 15th century: numerous additions to the calendar by various hands include detailed liturgical instructions and several feasts of St Remi: his deposition (13 January), translations (30 May and 1 October), 'relatio' (30 December) and the dedication of the cathedral (2 October), as well as Gibrianus, whose relics were at Rheims (16 April and 8 May); other Rheims texts were added elsewhere in the volume e.g. f.246.
3. Apparently owned by a series of late 15th- and 16th-century owners with humanistic interests, to judge by the additions at the end of the volume.
4. Charlotte de Carruel, with her name on the covers of the late 16th-century binding; she may have been responsible for re-arranging some of the contents: offsets show, for example, that f.224v once faced f.233, but they are now separated by the French text concerning St Margaret.
5. Richard de Loménie: late 19th- or early 20th-century bookplate with his arms, crest, name, motto 'Je maintiendray', onto which is stuck a circular label ink-stamped '2'; with an early 20th-century description in French attached to the first flyleaf; sold by Audap-Gadeau-Solanet at Drouot-Montaigne, Paris, 19 October 1989, lot B ('provenant de la succession de Monsieur R.').
Calendar [ff.i-xii verso]; Gospel extracts [ff.xiii-xv verso]; prayers 'Obsecro te' (with masculine forms), 'O intemerata', and other prayers and hymns to the Virgin including the 'Salve regina' [ff.xv verso - xx verso]; the Verses of St Bernard [ff.xx r-v]; Hours of the Virgin, use of Langres; ff.1-33v with Matins f.1, Lauds f.9, Hours of the Cross f.14 and of the Holy Spirit ff.15 intermixed, Prime f.16, Terce f.20, Sext f.23, None f.24, Vespers f.28, and Compline f.32; the Seven Penitential Psalms f.34; Litany of saints f.40; Office of the Dead, use of Langres f.46; Ferial Psalter ff.63-173v; added list of hymns for liturgical seasons from Christmas to the week of the octave of Pentecost ff.174-176v; Common of Saints ff.177-201v; added list of hymns from the vigil of the octave of Easter to the vigil of the Ascension to the vigil of Corpus Christi, and for other principal feasts ff.201v-[216v]; on pages originally left blank in the preceding section is a list headed 'Sex sunt utilitates devote dicencium horas suas' attributed to Thomas Aquinas f.208v; added hymn 'Te matrem dei laudamus... ' f.217; various texts added by late 15th- or 16th-century humanistic-influenced hands f.218-224v: proses of the Cross and the body of Christ, an Office of St Joseph, a prayer beginning 'In viam pacis salutis', the 'Quinque psalmi de passione domini', given by cues only, with comments attributed to William of Paris, Boethius, and Remigius, a recipe in French 'contre Bosse pestilencielle' followed by instructions on its use, a recipe 'peroptima ad procreandum filios haud filias', and verses on the Holy Kindred; added 15th-century verses in French on St Margaret, beginning 'Apres la sancte passion ... ' ff.225-231v; blank f.232; added prayers, ff.233-234; added hymns to Mary Magdalen ff.234v-236; added mnemonic including the date 25 January 1474 f.236v; added hymn to the Virgin by Gregorius Tiphernas ff.237-238; various prayers attributed to or mentioning Augustine, Hilary of Poitiers, and Thomas Aquinas ff.238v-240; ruled, otherwise blank f.240v; 15th-century suffrages to saints including Didier and Mammes ff.241-243v; added texts by various hands including verses on Mary Magdalen attributed to Petrarch, beginning 'Dulcis amica dei lacrimis inflectere nostris... ' ff.245r-v; added 15th-century prayers to Remi and Gibrianus f.246; miscellaneous additions, including forecasts and predictions based on what day of the week 1 January falls ff.248v-249v; the last page has been moved from its original position: it once faced the beginning of the calendar, as shown by an offset of an illuminated KL monogram initial.
All the large miniatures (except the last, which is added) are illuminated by the Master of Michel des Ursins whose work has been studied by, among others, James Marrow: 'he is a master, above all, of coloristic and luminescent effects, employing nocturnal settings and sharply lighted figures to create expressive moods... the style seems to presuppose the work of the so-called Master of King René' (Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts at Yale, 1978, no 71), and by John Plummer, who describes the 'highly original and expressive style, which combines a refined execution in a rather pointillist technique with a plunging, eccentric perspective, strongly caricatured and animated faces, and attenuated, hyperactive figures' (The Last Flowering, 1982, no 81). Most recently the artist has been described by François Avril as 'sans aucun doute l'une des personnalités les plus fascinantes, en meme temps que le plus mysté rieuses, de l'enluminure française du XVe siècle', describing the present manuscript - which was unknown until its appearance at auction in 1989, and not exhibited since then - as his most remarkable (Avril & Reynaud, p.185).
The artist's style and extraordinary inventiveness can be seen especially in the landscape of the Visitation miniature f.9, the draperies in the Pentecost, Coronation of the Virgin, and Funeral miniatures ff.14, 32, and 46, the deeply sloping landscape in the Shepherds miniature f.16, the landscape and night sky in Nativity miniature f.20, and the precipitous landscape under a brooding sky in the extraordinary Flight into Egypt miniature f.28. Among the more surreal details of the artist's work in the present manuscript are the toadstool-like growths in the landscape of the Crucifixion miniature f.14, the seed-pods (or drops of blood?) growing from a tree in the lower border of the Shepherds miniature f.16, and the jousting monsters below the Nativity f.20.
The smaller miniatures and historiated initials are by the Master of the Troyes Missal. His work in this manuscript is comparable to the matchlessly fine brush-work of the artist's frontispiece to the Nicholas de Lyra manuscript cited above (Avril & Reynaud, pp.184-5; for a large colour reproduction and discussion of this frontispiece, again saying that it has no equal in the artist's oeuvre apart from the present manuscript, see Les Très riches heures de Champagne, 2007, pp.130-1).
THE FINEST MANUSCRIPT - AND THE ONLY ONE IN PRIVATE HANDS - BY ARGUABLY THE TWO MOST IMPORTANT ILLUMINATORS OF THE CHAMPAGNE REGION
The subjects of the small miniatures in the calendar are 12 Occupations of the Months in square frames and 12 Zodiac symbols in roundels:
[f.i] A man feasting in front of a fire; Aquarius: a water-carrier with two jugs
[f.ii] A man warming his foot in front of a fire; Pisces: two fish
[f.iii] A man pruning vines(?); Aries
[f.iv] A man carrying a branch; Taurus
[f.v] A mounted falconer; Gemini: twins
[f.vi] A man scything; Cancer: a crab
[f.vii] A man reaping wheat; Leo
[f.viii] A man threshing; Virgo: a young woman with a palm-branch
[f.xi] A man treading gapes in a vat; Libra: a pair of scales
[f.x] A man sowing seed; Scorpio
[f.xi] A man knocking acorns from trees for his pigs; Saggitarius
[f.xii] A man slaughtering a pig; Capricorn: a half-goat emerging from a shell
The subjects of the small historiated initials are:
[f.xiii] St Luke writing, with his symbol
[f.xiii v] St Matthew writing, with his symbol
[f.xiv] St Mark writing, with his symbol
[f.xiv v] St John writing, with his symbol
[f.xv v] The Virgin and Child seated on the ground
[f.xvii] Pietà with St John and an angel
f.16 St Agnes(?) with a lamb, spinning wool
f.20 A man being devoured by a demon
f.145 God in heaven surrounded by cherubim
f.158 The Trinity, with full border
f.162v David in Penitence in a landscape
f.177 A group of apostles, including Sts Peter and Paul
f.189 A group of saints
The subjects of the large historiated initials in the psalter are:
f.63v King David enthroned, playing the harp
f.76v King David pointing to his eyes, God above
f.83v King David approached by a devil, God above
f.89v The Fool, with hobby-horse and circular object
f.98 King David standing waist-deep in water, God above
f.122 King David playing a carillon of bells
f.131 Clerics singing from an open book on a lectern
The subjects of the large miniatures are:
f.1 The Annunciation, set inside the entrance to the chapel of an elaborate gothic building, with the arms of France and the erased arms of the patron over the doorway, apparently including a bend or bendlet gules with another colour in chief
f.9 The Visitation, set in a fine landscape
f.14 The Crucifixion
f.15 Pentecost, the apostles sitting on three sides around the Virgin
f.16 The Annunciation to the Shepherds, in an exceptional landscape
f.20 The Nativity, the architecturally complex stable set in a landscape lit by a crescent moon
f.23 The Adoration of the Magi
f.25 The Presentation in the Temple, set in a gothic church with choir-stalls
f.28 The Flight into Egypt, under a dramatic sky the donkey apparently pausing before making a steep incline towards a city in the distance, the Massacre of the Innocents and the Miracle of the Corn in the background
f.32 The Coronation of the Virgin
f.34 David in Penitence, outside an elaborate gothic church, the avenging angel above
f.46 Funeral Service, set in a gothic church, with clerics singing at a lectern and in the choir-stalls, mourners in voluminous brown cloaks before the bier, the corpse being brought in from a door in the background
f.235 St Margaret emerging from the dragon
Bulletin de la Société historique et archéologique de Langres, nos. 298-309, 1990, pp.41-3.
François Avril and Nicole Reynaud, Les manuscripts à peintures en France 1440-1520, 1993, pp.184-5.