THE MARTYRDOM OF ST STEPHEN AND THE CONVERSION OF ST PAUL, miniature in four compartments with captions in French, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Paris, c.1340] 290 x 205mm. Single leaf, the recto blank, the verso with a large miniature 190 x 140mm, divided into four scenes, with French captions in formal gothic script above and below, and roman numerals (glue-marks at the gutter edge, some smudging of pigments and text). Mounted on card. Provenance: Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872); bought in 1945-46 by Messrs Robinson; sold by them to Eric Korner (1893-1980), his no 25; his sale, Sotheby's, 19 June 1990, lot 14.
At least 32 leaves of this manuscript are known. The parent volume was broken up by 1834, when the Bodleian Library acquired one leaf. The numbering of the captions shows that the images were distributed in three groups, probably prefacing Psalms 1, 51 and 101 in a Psalter. The first series concerns the life of Christ, ending with an image of King David to introduce the start of the Psalms; the second (from which the present leaf comes) concerns the Acts of the Apostles; and the third (now British Library, Add. ms 19992) concerns the life of Joseph. The present leaf, with scenes numbered XIII-XVI, would have followed immediately after the scenes numbered IX-XII (now Art Institute, Chicago, Inv. no 1992.1), and come before the Bodleian leaf, which also has (unnumbered) scenes from the life of St Paul. A comprehensive listing of the leaves is C. de Hamel, Gilding the Lilly, 2010, no 43, citing the present leaf at p.96. The illumination is lively and expressive, most scenes with gesticulating figures; an engaging theatrical narrative flow was apparently more important to the patron than refined elegance. The style is difficult to pin down precisely: the miniatures have usually been attributed to Lorraine or Metz, c.1320, and compared to Paris, BnF, ms lat. 6918, made in Metz from 1313 to 1316, and Vienna, ÖNB, Cod. 2583*, but similarities to these manuscripts are superficial. In fact, the style of miniatures and pen-flourished initials should be attributed to Paris, and the short gipon (or gippon, a sort of padded doublet) in the so-called Catalonian fashion worn by the male figures in some of the miniatures suggests a date closer to 1340.