THE ADORATION OF THE MAGI, miniature on a leaf from a Book of Hours, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM, [Paris, c.1450].
214 x 157 mm. Arch-topped miniature depicting the three Magi offering gifts to the Christ Child, verso with 15 lines of text (some rubbing of the gold and occasional loss of pigment in the initial and borders, light staining to margins). Provenance: Sotheby’s, 5 December 1978, lot 16.
An intimate presentation of a familiar scene, this miniature was one of the select group of illuminations attributed to the Master of Dreux Budé by Nicole Reynaud (F. Avril and N. Reynaud, Les manuscrits à peintures en France 1449-1520, 1993, p.56). A key figure in 15th-century Parisian painting, the Master was named from a dismembered Passion Triptych executed for Dreux Budé, a lawyer who rose high in the service of Charles VII. His evident debt to Netherlandish painting and his close stylistic relationship with the Coëtivy Master encouraged Reynaud to identify him with André d’Ypres, master in Tournai in 1428 who moved from Amiens to Paris in or after 1443; the Coëtivy Master was identified with André’s son, Colin d’Amiens, who also settled in Paris. The subsequent discovery that André d’Ypres died in July 1450 in Mons after returning from a pilgrimage to Rome is consonant with the Master’s evident connection with van der Weyden, also in Rome that year, but has entailed a re-evaluation of an oeuvre usually considered to extend well into the 1450s (D. Vanwijnsberghe, ‘Du nouveau sur le peintre André d’Ypres, artiste du Nord installé à Paris’, Bulletin monumental, 158 (2000), pp.365-369; D. Thiébaut et al., Primitifs francais Découvertes et redécouvertes, 2004, pp.92-101). The present Adoration repeats the composition in the Speculum humanae salvationis in Einsiedeln (Stiftsbibliothek cod.206) but here the rapidly drawn and expressive figures of the Master's earlier work are carefully painted to give a sense of containment that adds poignancy to the kneeling king’s still adoration.