THE HOURS OF FRANÇOIS I, use of Rome, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Paris or Tours] 1539-1540
200 x 135mm. 93 leaves, including 3 blanks, COMPLETE without a calendar: 1-22 (probably originally a single quire of 4 leaves), 3-174, 182, 19-234, 242, 255 (of 4+v), foliated in modern pencil 1-93, unfoliated thin paper interleaves facing miniatures, traces of vertical catchwords in italic script (ff.40v, 78v), 20 lines written in script imitating roman type in black ink between two verticals and 21 horizontals ruled in pale red ink (ff.12, 20, 65v-66, 80v-82v, 88v, and 93v are ruled, otherwise blank), justification: 140 x 85 mm, rubrics in black, red, blue, and burnished gold, one-line initials and paragraph marks in gold on alternate red or blue grounds, line-fillers in gold on coloured grounds, sometimes in the form of knotty branches or knotted cords, two- and occasionally three-line initials in gold on alternate red or blue grounds, one HISTORIATED INITIAL, each miniature accompanied by LARGE ILLUMINATED INITIALS with conventional and naturalistic floral and foliate designs on a gold ground, EIGHTEEN LARGE MINIATURES WITH FULL BORDERS incorporating naturalistic plants and flowers, butterflies, ladybirds, a caterpillar, other borders of Renaissance architectural forms, with Renaissance motifs (putti, wreaths, garlands, cartouches, escutcheons, etc.), the text often written on trompe-l'oeil grounds (f.4 somewhat loose, thumbing and signs of use). Late 18th-century dark blue-green polished leather with gilt panels and foliate designs, the gilt spine with five raised bands, the spine densely gilt with sceptre-like motifs and cherubim, the edges of the leaves gilt, endpapers of coloured and gilt patterned paper, flyleaves with the 'Maid of Dort' form of the 'Pro Patria' watermark, a red leather title-piece lettered in gilt 'MISSAL. DE. HENRY.DE.ALBRET. ROY.DE.NAVARRE' (upper pastedown), probably added for Beauclerk c.1780 (some scuffing). Blue cloth box with gilt morocco spine.
A MASTERPIECE OF EARLY FRENCH RENAISSANCE PAINTING, MADE FOR - AND CONTAINING A PORTRAIT OF - FRANCE'S FIRST GREAT RENAISSANCE MONARCH
1. King François I of France (1494-1547), generally considered to be France's first Renaissance monarch as a patron of the arts, man of letters, employer of Leonardo da Vinci, and effectively the founder of the Louvre art collections: with his arms f.21, and portrait f.89. Several of the miniatures are dated 1539 or 1540, although the first of these has been read as '1532' by more than one scholar.
The final payers addressed to St Marculf are known to exist in only three books: (i) the present manuscript, (ii) the earlier unfinished Hours of François I (London, BL Add. 18853), and (iii) the later Hours of Henri II (Paris, BnF, lat. 1429). St Marculf was a 6th-century abbot whose relics were at Corbigny, between Laon and Reims. It became the custom of French kings after their coronation at Reims cathedral to make a pilgrimage to Corbigny, to touch the relics, and then to heal those sick with the skin disease scrofula, known as 'the king's evil' because of the belief that it could be cured by the touch of a monarch. The practice continued in England until the reign of George I, and in France until that of Louis XV. It was the subject of a classic study by Marc Bloch, Les Rois thaumaturges, 1924, translated into English as The Royal Touch: Sacred Monarchy and Scrofula in England and France, 1973.
2. John Ives, Jr (1751-1776), antiquary and herald, on whom see DNB: a slip of paper inscribed perhaps in his hand, apparently cut from the flyleaf of a previous binding is stuck to the penultimate flyleaf of the present binding, and reads 'This Missal was Henry of Albret's King of Navarre, afterwards Henry IV of France, who married Margaret of Valois in 1527'; sold as part of his library by Baker and Leigh, Covent Garden, 3 March 1777, lot 650, for £10 15s, described as 'A most beautiful Roman Missal, in a clear neat print hand, - The Illuminations remarkably fine and elegant - The last Painting represents K. Henry IV. of France on his Knees at Prayers, 4to'.
3. Topham Beauclerk (1739-1780), inscribed 'bought at Ives Auction at Bakers Cov[ent] Gard[en] March 6 1777. price £10-15s-0d [signed:] T:B:'. Beauclerk was a great-grandson of King Charles II by his mistress Nell Gwyn; a friend of Horace Walpole and Dr Johnson (and mentioned in Boswell's Life of Johnson). Educated at Eton and Oxford he left university without taking a degree, to lead a life 'aristocratic, idle, and accomplished' (DNB). Having spent part of this idleness amassing a collection of 30,000 books, he commissioned Robert Adam to design a library for him in his house on Great Russell Street: according to Walpole it reached 'halfway to Highgate. Everybody goes to see it; it has put the [British] Museum's nose quite out of joint'. The binding was probably executed for Beauclerk. The library was sold after his death in a sale that started on 9 April 1781, and lasted fifty days; the present manuscript was lot 3296 in Part II of the catalogue, the penultimate lot in the entire sale, described as the 'Missal de Henry D'Albret Roy de Navarre; a very elegant Missal, upon vellum, embellished with 17 [sic] beautiful Miniatures, 4to. in blue turkey'; it sold on 6 June for £12.
4. In the early 19th century the manuscript was acquired by the great-great-grandfather of Col. C.C.C. Farran, who in 1966 placed it on deposit at the British Library, where it was kept for two decades as Loan Ms. 58; it was subsequently withdrawn and sold in these rooms, 24 June 1987, lot 265.
Extracts from the Gospels, each starting on a recto and preceded by a rubric on the facing verso; John followed by an antiphon, versicle, response, and the prayer 'Protector in te sperantium...' ff.4v-11v ; The Passion narrative, based on John 19:1-34; followed by a verse, response, and the prayer 'Deus qui manus tuas et pedes tuos...' ff.12v-19v; The Hours of the Virgin, use of Rome, with the Hours of the Cross and Hours of the Spirit intermixed, with matins (f.21), lauds (f.28), matins of the Cross (f.36), matins of the Spirit (37), prime of the Virgin (f.38), terce (f.42), sext (f.47), none (f.51), vespers (f.55), and compline (f.61), ff.20v-65; The Seven Penitential Psalms ff.66v-74; Litany, petitions, and collects; the litany including St Francis (François's name-saint) first among the monks and hermits ff.74-80; Vespers of the Office of the Dead ff.83-88; A series of about a dozen devotions to St Marculf, for use by the King of France, the first prayer beginning 'De sancto Marculfo. Audiens rex quod ab angelo monitus ad eum venerat ... ' (cf. Leroquais, Livres d'heures, 1927, I, pp.276-8: the Hours of Henri II) ff.89-93.
The illuminator, active c.1525-1546, was originally named 'The Master of François I' after the present manuscript, but was re-christened by François Avril 'The Master of François de Rohan' after a copy of François de Rohan's 1530 translation of the Fleur de Vertu (Paris, BnF, ms. fr. 1877), and studied in detail by Myra Orth, who published a considerable oeuvre consisting of eighteen illuminated manuscripts and the woodcuts in at least four printed books. Although he worked on a variety of texts 'The Master of François de Rohan ... excelled in the illustration of these pious books [of hours], often surpassing his contemporaries in imaginative subject matter and lively narration ... The Hours of François I ... is indisputably one of the artist's mature masterpieces' (Orth, pp.77, 80).
The decoration of the volume clearly demonstrates the adoption of Renaissance taste in France: some of the borders continue the late 15th- and early 16th-century taste for Flemish-inspired scatter borders of illusionistic flowers, fruit, and insects on a gold ground, while the borders of the other miniatures are full of Renaissance architectural styles, motifs and features such as trompe-l'oeil pieces of parchment bearing the text.
The style of the miniatures combines strong, bright, colours; voluminous, often swirling draperies; crisply delineated faces and physical features; and slightly chubby facial types reminiscent of some of those by German artists.
The subjects of the miniatures are:
f.5 St John writing his gospel on Patmos, looking up at his vision of the Revelation in the sky, his symbol the eagle next to him, set in a deep landscape; the border filled with especially fine Renaissance motifs
f.7 St Luke writing his gospel; his symbol the winged ox at his feet; below the miniature is an historiated initials depicting the Annunciation
f.9 St Matthew writing his gospel, copying from an exemplar held by his symbol the winged man
f.11 St Mark reading at an elaborate lectern, set in a richly furnished Renaissance domestic interior; his symbol the winged lion at his feet
f.13 The Betrayal and Arrest of Christ; in the background the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane; the border including a cartouche with the date '1539' and a wreath enclosing the Instruments of the Passion
f.21 The Annunciation; the border including a cartouche with the date '1539' and a shield with the French royal arms: azure, three fleurs-de-lis or
f.28 The Visitation; including a cartouche with the opening words of the Magnificat
f.36 The Crucifixion; the border including two cartouches each with the date '1539'; a piece of jewellery(?) depicting a pierced heart; a crown of thorns enclosing a shield depicting the Instruments of the Passion with a scroll lettered 'INSIGNA NOSTRI REDEMTORIS CHRISTI'
f.38 The Nativity
f.42 The Annunciation to the Shepherds; the border including a blank shield
f.47 The Adoration of the Magi; incorporating the date '1539'; the lower corners of the corner with a fleur-de-lis and a salamander, emblem of François I
f.51 The Presentation in the Temple; the border with the date '1540'
f.55 The Flight into Egypt; the background with the Fall of the Idols and the Miracle of the Cornfield
f.61 The Coronation of the Virgin by the Trinity
f.67 King David in Penitence; in the background David spying on Bathsheba; in the foreground King David wearing blue robes with a semé of gold fleurs-de-lis: the arms of France
f.83 The Raising of Lazarus, Christ's words on a scroll 'Surge Lazare, veni foras'; a blank shield in the border
f.89 A portrait of King François I, set against a backdrop of the French royal arms, kneeling before St Marculf dressed as an abbot, sitting on a Renaissance throne; in the background a scene showing Marculf healing a young man
Janet Backhouse, 'Two Books of Hours of Francis I', The British Museum Quarterly, 31, 1967, pp.90-6, passim and pls.XXVIII (f.89) and XXX (f.21).
Myra D. Orth, 'The Master of François de Rohan: a familiar French Renaissance Miniaturist with a new name', in Illuminating the Book: Makers and Interpreters, London, 1998, pp.69-91 (the present manuscript reproduced in fig.50).