THE AVIGNON HOURS, use of Paris, in Latin and French, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
190 x 133mm. ii + 287 leaves: 112, 2-128, 134, 14-178, 184, 19-206, 218, 224, 23-268, 274, 288, 296, 30-318, 324, 33-368, 377(of 8, ii lacking), 388, 394, 402(of 4, iii-iv cancelled blanks), catchwords, 14 lines written in black ink in a gothic bookhand between two verticals and 15 horizontals very finely ruled in brown, justification: 85 x 53mm, rubrics in red, line-endings in burnished gold patterned with blue, pink and orange, one-line initials alternately in pink or blue with white on burnished gold grounds with floral or foliate infills, two-line initials of similar type with marginal extensions on rectos of gold and coloured leaves or flowers on hairline tendrils, EVERY PAGE WITH A BORDER OF LEAVES AND FLOWERS, except f.216v originally blank, many with the letters 'un' in gold, with a bar to the outer margin of intertwined strands of blue and green or red and with burnished gold infills, SIXTEEN LARGE MINIATURES WITH BORDERS WITH ANGELS above three-line initials on gold grounds (lacking one leaf before f.270, repaired tear on f.284, tiny paint loss and small offset to miniature f.73, wear to miniatures on ff.86v, 117v (probably from kissing), f.155v (very slight), some wear to margins). Late 16th-century French brown morocco à la fanfare, enclosing the initials AC on both covers, later parchment fore-edge tabs (lacking two ties, expert minor repairs to joints). Brown slipcase.
A MOST ENTRANCING BOOK OF HOURS, WITH RARE INDIVIDUALITY OF SUBJECT MATTER AND DECORATION
1. The manuscript, with prayers in the feminine, was made for a lady who used 'un' as a motto; the interpretation 'vii' seems less plausible. Although the use of Paris was widely followed, the lady may have had links to the capital: a slightly earlier Parisian Book of Hours bears words read as 'un' and 'va' (Tenschert, Katalog LXVI, 2011, no 5). The Calendar is largely Parisian with some variations; the saints in the litany include some who were especially popular in Paris, like Fiacre, and some more revered elsewhere, like Martial, the Apostle of Limoges. St Genevieve of Paris and St Maturin, whose cult centred on Sens, are invoked in the litany and suffrages. Sts Quentin and Avoye in the suffrages are also more usual in northern France. Identifying the use of the Office of the Dead might clarify her origins or usual place of residence. The book was made in Avignon: the miniatures are from the workshop of Jean de Toulouse active there c.1380-1415, whose manuscripts are characterised by Parisian style borders; some have Parisian calendars (M.-C. Leonelli, 'La dévotion aux saints d'après les livres d'heures confectionés à Avignon', Mémoires de l'Académie de Vaucluse, 1985, pp.329-335, citing this manuscript).
2. CA or AC: the initials on the fine 16th-century Parisian binding that demonstrates the continuing value placed on the book. There are erased inscriptions on the endleaves.
3. Charles Gillet of Lyon and then Lausanne (1879-1972): no 40 in V. Leroquais, Exposition de manuscrits à peintures du VIe au XVIIe siècles, Bibliothèque de la Ville de Lyon, 1920. His collections, especially famed for the Greek coins, earned him the title 'le Prince du goût' (see M. Peyrennet, La dynastie des Gillet, Paris, 1978). 4. Sotheby's, 11 April 1961, lot 177; Quaritch, Catalogue no 820 (1961), no 7; Christie's, 11 July 1974, lot 13.
5. Commandant Weiller (1893-1993): his bookplate inside upper cover; his sale, Drouot, Paris, 30 November 1998, lot 78.
Calendar ff.3-14v; Gospel extracts ff.15-20; prayers including O Intemerata, in the feminine, and Obsecro te, with some masculine endings and 'famule tue' in the feminine, ff.20v-30v; Hours of the Virgin, use of Paris ff.31-98v: matins with variants for the days of the week f.31, lauds f.55v, prime f.67, terce f.73, sext f.77v, none f.82, vespers f.86v, compline f.93v; Penitential Psalms and Litany ff.99-117; Hours of the Cross ff.117v-121; Hours of the Holy Spirit ff.121v-125v; Fifteen Joys of the Virgin ff.126-131; Eight Requests to Our Lord, 'ce sont viii peticions a dieu', the usual Sept requêtes ff.131v-135; Seven Joys of the Virgin and Marian devotions ff.135v-175; prayers and suffrages to the saints: Michael, Angels, John the Baptist, Peter (rubric not supplied), James, Andrew, Bartholomew, Apostles, Stephen, Lawrence, Denis, George, Eustace, Christopher, Gervaise and Protaise, Quentin, martyrs, Nicholas, Louis of France, Anthony Abbot, Maturin, Leu (Lupus), confessors, the Trinity, the Seven Joys of the Magdalene with a prayer to Christ, Katherine, Margaret, Genevieve, Avoye, All Saints, for peace ff.175v-201v; prayers ff.202-207v; Hours of the Compassion of the Virgin ff.207v-216; added prayer f.216v; Psalter of St Jerome ff.217-236v; Office of the Dead, unidentified use (lacking end of Lesson VIII and beginning of Lesson IX) ff.237-285; prayers ff.285-288; prayers added with slightly different decoration ff.288-289v.
This very personal collection has some uncommon texts, like the 'Eight requests' where the introduction becomes the first request, the Seven Joys of the Magdalene and the Hours of the Virgin's Compassion, found in several Books of Hours of the Jean de Toulouse group (see L. Freeman Sandler, 'The Avignon Hours in the New York Public Library', in Quand la peinture était dans les livres. Mélanges en l'honneur de François Avril, 2007, this manuscript pp.284-5, 291).
The style of Jean de Toulouse has been identified from his documented work in 1392-1393 on the Missal of the Avignon Pope Clement VII, now in the Biblioteca Vaticana, mss Ottob. Lat. 62 and Vat. Lat. 4766-4767. The activity of his workshop or associates -- in 1393 he had 16 scribes and others working under him -- has been traced in Avignon from c.1380 and may have continued after Jean returned to Toulouse c.1415 (see F. Manzari, La miniature ad Avignone al tempo dei papi, 2009, pp.203-85). Papal and curial patronage had attracted artists from all over Europe and Avignon's dynamic cultural mix is still evident in the present lot. The elegant figures combine decorative contours and shapes, as pursued in Parisian illumination of the later 14th century, with a feeling for the three-dimensionality of the human body more typical of Netherlandish and Italian illuminators: the fusion resulted in the superb masterpiece of the Virgin weaving, f.82. The green underpainting for flesh, as on f.237, comes from Italian practice; the figure style and delicate gold patterning of robes suggest familiarity with North Italian painting. The mastery of pattern is most obvious in the rich variety of the backgrounds, possibly a legacy of the Bohemian illuminator who has been identified working with Jean de Toulouse. The bold use of colour, particularly of black, is also a Bohemian trait.
The outstanding depictions of narrative are not specific to any one regional tradition. The appealing, and extremely rare, sequence of the childhood of the Virgin demonstrates an acute sensitivity to gesture and posture. On f.55v, for instance, the Virgin eagerly sets off to the Temple yet looks back reassuringly at her parents who anxiously debate the wisdom of her departure. On f.67, her mother makes a gesture of release, while her father gives his parental blessing, as the Virgin is poised on the steps, between them and the Temple door. Even familiar scenes receive a new impact and intensity: blood pours from the wounds of the Christ of the Last Judgement and soaks into the earth to redeem the dead, f.99. The appearance of Christ is witnessed not just by St Jerome but by his lion who also turns his head upwards, f.217.
The beauty of the miniatures is matched by the richness of the other decoration, with a border on every page and even the small initials on gold grounds. The softly coloured borders are Parisian in inspiration but have no precise precedent for their sprays of feathery leaves 'growing' from slender twisted bars to curl round flowers and mottoes. All aspects of production received careful thought to create a luxurious volume of enchanting individuality.
The subjects of the miniatures are as follows: the Birth of the Virgin f.31; the young Virgin beside her parents f.55v; the Virgin on the steps to the Temple watched by her parents f.67; the Virgin received in the Temple by the High Priest f.73; the Virgin praying before the Ark of the Covenant f.77v; the Virgin weaving the veil of the Temple f.82; the Virgin reading, being brought food by an angel f.86v; the Marriage of the Virgin f.93v; the Last Judgement f.99; the Crucifixion f.117v; Pentecost f.121v; the Virgin suckling the Child f.126; the Trinity set against cherubim and the heads of saints in blue monochrome f.131v; the Annunciation f.155v; St Jerome praying to Christ at half-length in the sky above him f.217; the Raising of Lazarus f.237.