ST BARBARA, miniature with full historiated border on a leaf from a Book of Hours, in Latin and French, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
119 x 88 mm. The miniature of St Barbara standing beside the tower to which she had a third window added to symbolize the Trinity, as clarified by the labels pater, filius and spiritus sanctus, with two scenes in the border of her father bringing her to be tried and of one of her torments (leaf trimmed to the gold frame of the border, very small paint losses to saint's book, slight offsetting on tower). Laid down on raised support and framed. Provenance: Frédédric Spitzer (1815-1890): his sale 14 April-16 June 1893, lot 3264; bought by Nathan Wildenstein (1851-1934).
At the Spitzer Sale, the leaf was one of 16: there are leaves in the Collection Wildenstein, Musée Marmottan, the Victoria and Albert Museum and private collections; a further leaf was sold at Sotheby's, 17 June 1997, lot 27. Although similar in dimensions and overall design, the leaves differ sufficiently in layout and language to suggest that they come from two distinct series, possibly from two separate books or from a book that, like the Dunois Hours itself, was extended with further texts and miniatures. The acanthus emblem of the Jouvenel des Ursins family has been identified on one leaf but the plant may be purely decorative; the very rare miniatures of the Breton saints Donatian and Rogatian and Mandetus (whereabouts unknown) suggest a Breton patron, perhaps associated with Prigent de Coëtivy for whom the Dunois Master painted between 1444 and 1450 a similarly refined semi-grisaille Hours with additional border scenes (Chester Beatty Library W 82). The dismembered leaves are slightly later, comparable to those in the Master's Hours of Guillaume Jouvenel des Ursins of c.1450 (BnF ms n.acq.lat. 3266, see N. Reynaud, 'Les heures du chancelier Guillaume Jouvenel de Ursins et la peinture parisienne autour de 1440', Revue de l'Art, 126, 1999, pp.23-35). The present leaf came from a book of extraordinary iconographic richness and delicacy of execution.