THE ELISABETA PEIXO HOURS, use of Rome, in Latin and Catalan, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Naples c.1480s and c.1505]
193 x 130mm. 224 leaves: 1-28, 31+10, 4-1010, 112, (?originally the outer bifolium of gathering 12), 121+8, 138, 142, 15-1610, 176, 18-2110, 2212, 234, 24-268, apparently COMPLETE, 14 lines in black ink in a gothic bookhand between two verticals and 15 horizontals ruled in gold with bounding lines double-ruled, justification: 110 x 75mm, rubrics in red, one-line initials alternately of blue and gold with penwork flourishing respectively of red and lilac, two-line initials of burnished gold against grounds and infills of red and blue with white decoration, and with foliate sprays in the side margin, FOURTEEN LARGE HISTORIATED INITIALS WITH FULL-PAGE BORDERS of gold and coloured foliage inhabited by putti, birds, grotesques, men and women, one with roundels with half-length figures, THREE FULL-PAGE MINIATURES within similar borders and a BAS-DE-PAGE MINIATURE AS PART OF A FURTHER FULL-PAGE BORDER (stains to margins of first and last leaves, last page rubbed and smudged, wormhole on first two folios and a few holes to final two leaves, occasional slight smudging to edge of borders). Spanish late 17th- or early 18th-century red morocco richly gilt, spine in six compartments (slight rubbing, ink stain on upper cover). Red cloth box.
A SPLENDID BOOK OF HOURS UNITING THE WORK OF TWO ARTISTS FAVOURED BY THE RENAISSANCE COURT OF NAPLES
1. The manuscript was written for Elisabeta, wife of Luis Peix or Peixo; both are named in the prayer to the Trinity on f.115v and again in the prayer against enemies on f.144 where she asks Christ to 'deign to guard me and Luis Peix my man against all our enemies visible and invisible'. Some rubrics and prayers are in Catalan, and peix is Catalan for fish: the fish on a blue field supported by two putti in the margin of f.53v is surely a canting heraldic reference to his name. Since the style of the illumination is Neapolitan and the illuminator of most of the historiated initials worked in Naples for patrons including members of the Aragonese court between 1480 and 1492, it seems likely that this was the milieu in which Elisabeta and her husband lived and ordered her book. A Luis Peixò was serving as castellano of Castel Nuovo during the reign of Ferdinand the Catholic, King of Naples from 1504 to 1516. Peixò opened the doors of the fortress for the monarch's ceremonial entrance in 1507.
2. Juan de Zúñiga Avellaneda y Bazán (1551-1608), second son of the 4th count of Miranda del Castañar: his coat of arms, quarterly Zúñiga of Navarrre, Bazán of Navarre, Avellaneda of Catalonia and Cárdena, against the cross of the knights of Santiago, is painted over the original arms on f.18. Soldier and statesman in the service of Philip II and Philip III of Spain he was Viceroy of Catalonia from 1583-1586 and Viceroy of Naples from 1586-1595, President of the Council of Italy and from 1600 President of the Council of Castille. In 1608 he was made duke of Peñaranda de Duero, the rank shown by the crown above his coat of arms. Juan de Zúñiga may have taken the manuscript with him when he returned to Spain: it was there by the 18th century when it received its present binding.
3.Vera Frances Bryce Salomons (1888-1969): daughter of Sir David Lionel Salomans (1851-1925), the first Jewish Lord Mayor of London, she was a life-long champion of religious tolerance and promoter of understanding between Palestinians and Jews in Israel, who in the 1920s offered a vast donation of £100,000 to acquire the Wailing Wall from the Muslim property trust that owned it; when this offer was rejected the money was spent on other philanthropic and humanitarian projects, including the foundation of the L.A. Mayer Institute for Islamic Art in Jerusalem with the aim of promoting a better understanding of Islamic culture. After the death of her parents and siblings she donated the family home in England to Kent County Council, and it later became the Salomons Museum, adminstered by the University of Christ Church Canterbury.
4. Otto Kurz (1908-1975), art historian, cataloguer of drawings at Windsor Castle, and author of several articles about illuminated manuscripts.
Calendar ff.1-15v; Prayer to the Virgin with rubric in Catalan ff.16r&v; Office of the Virgin, use of Rome, ff.18-96: matins ff.18-30v, lauds ff.30v-53v, prime ff.53v-59, terce ff.59-64v, sext ff.64v-69v, none ff.70-75, vespers ff.75-83, compline ff.83-96; prayers with rubrics in Catalan ff.96v-99; Mass of the Virgin ff.101-108v; Hours of the Holy Spirit ff.109-115v; prayer to the Trinity ff.115v-118v; Seven Penitential Psalms, Litany and prayers ff.132-144v; Office of the Dead and hymn ff.145-200v; Obsecro te, in the feminine form ff.201-205v; the Fifteen Oes followed by prayers to Christ and Saint Anne, all in Catalan ff.206-224.
Various oddities and misspellings in the Latin of the first prayer, which has a Catalan rubric, suggest that the scribe may have been Spanish himself: for example, 'mundi tolens escandalum' (f.16). The final section of prayers in Catalan are written in a different hand from the rest of the manuscript and the script has definite Spanish characteristics.
The miniatures, historiated initials and borders of this Hours are the work of at least three illuminators. The earliest contributor to the decoration was Cristoforo Majorana who is documented illuminating books for the Aragonese court in Naples from 1480 to 1492. As well as the manuscripts for Ferdinand I, king of Naples and his sons Alfonso, duke of Calabria and Cardinal Giovanni of Aragon he worked for the
illustrious bibliophile Andrea Matteo III Acquaviva. In the present manuscript Majorana was responsible for the miniature of Christ as Man of Sorrows and all of the historiated initials, except for the Virgin and Child with angels on f.201. Five of the full-page inhabited borders that accompany them are his autograph work and the others are painted in a closely similar style. Although Majorana adopted, and was valued for, the all'antica style of frontispiece and border, where he emulated the manner of the Paduan Bartolommeo San Vito, he also continued the highly decorative and more traditional Neapolitan border type where putti, grotesques and dragons squeezed through the foliage and tendrils bordering the pages. The borders on folios 18, 101, 109, 119 and 145 are particularly sumptuous examples of this style, closely comparable to parts of his work in a copy of St Augustine's Contra Faustum (Paris, BnF, latin 2082) that was probably made for Cardinal Giovanni of Aragon around 1480-85.
The other full-page miniatures, which are on inserted single leaves with blank rectos, and all of the illumination on ff.201 and 221v, are the work of another hand. The patterned gold fabrics reveal the Spanish origin of this illuminator who is associable with the painter of a retable of the collegiate church of Bolea in Huesca. Works attributed to an early stay by this master in southern Italy include two panels for Andrea Matteo III Acquaviva, duke of Atria (Atri, Museo Capitolare) and the frontispiece of Pliny's Epistolae e Panegyricus (Naples, Bibl. Dei Girolamini, CF.6) datable around 1502. His manuscript masterpiece is the Breviary-Missal of Ferdinand the Catholic (Vatican City, BAV, Chigi VII C.205). We are grateful to François Avril for drawing our attention to the relationship with the style of the Master and to Gennaro Toscano for his suggestion that the miniatures in the present Hours stem from the early period of the Master's activity in Italy. For this master's career in Italy, and bibliography see T. d'Urso, 'Napoli 1506: il Maestro del Retablo di Bolea', in Quand la peinture était dans les livres: Mélanges en honneur de François Avril, 2005, pp.78-87.
Given the accepted careers of Majorana and the illuminator associated with the retable of Bolea it would seem that there may have been as much as two decades between their contributions to this manuscript. It seems the owner had the manuscript by Majorana updated and upgraded by having full-page miniatures added on inserted singletons, providing the Spanish-style golden ruling around the text, supplying each two-line illuminated initial with an accompanying marginal spray and adding the final devotions in Catalan. Such additions were made for a woman (the added Obsecro te is in the feminine form), perhaps still Elizabeta Peix, and the positioning of the later illustration demonstrates her devotion to the Virgin. All of the additions emulate the decorative forms of the earlier campaign and provide a coherent and beguiling whole. The most arresting insertions by the later artist are the lively human -- or part-human -- figures who pursue one another or tussle among the foliage of Majorana-style borders in the Office of the Virgin on folios 30v, 53v, 59, 64v, 70, 75 and 84. The accomplished putti added to the borders around Majorana's Man of Sorrows miniature on f.99v appear to be the work of an artist who was influenced by Gaspare da Padova.
The subjects of the miniatures are as follows:
Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple f.17v; Man of Sorrows with the Instruments of the Passion f.99v; Christ teaching the Doctors f.100v; Birth of the Virgin (border miniature) f.221v.
Subjects of the historiated initials:
Virgin and Child f.18; Prophet f.21v; Annunciation f.30v; Nativity f.53v; Adoration of the Magi f.59; Resurrection f.64v; Ascension f.70; Pentecost f.75; Assumption f.83; Virgin adoring the Christ Child f.101; Pentecost with the risen Christ hovering above the Virgin and Apostles f.109; David in penitence f.119; Vigils of the Dead f.145; Virgin and Child enthroned with four border medallions of female saints f.201.