BOOK OF HOURS, use of Paris, in Latin and French, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM, [Paris, c.1490s].
138 x 90mm. 146 leaves. 18 lines written in a brown ink in a fine calligraphic bâtarde script, ruled in pale red ink between two verticals and nineteen horizontals, ruled space: 87 x 55mm; rubrics in blue, FOURTEEN LARGE ARCH-TOPPED MINIATURES with full borders of stylised acanthus and semi-naturalistic fruit and flowers on gold grounds, inhabited by animals and grotesques, with a two to four-line foliate initial in gold on a blue ground or blue on a red ground below each miniature, one and two-line initials throughout in the same, TWENTY-FOUR SMALLER MINIATURES, line-fillers in red, blue, and gold (lacking the miniature opening sext in the Hours of the Virgin, some light thumbing). French early 19th-century red morocco gilt, the spine with the title ‘HEURES GOTIQUE’, edges gilt (some scuffing).
(1) The liturgical use, script and illumination, as well as the litany and the suffrages, all point to an origin in Paris towards the end of the 15th century. (2) GIUSEPPE MOLINI (1772-1856), Florentine antiquarian bookseller and publisher, very faint pencil inscription on f.1v, subsequently lot 24 in Puttick and Simpson, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and Italian manuscripts [...] recently imported from Italy, 24 November 1846.
Almanach and Calendar ff.2-14v; Gospel extracts, ff.15-28v; Hours of the Virgin, use of Paris, ff.29-77: matins f.29, lauds f.45, matins of cross f.53, matins holy spirit f.54v, prime f.55v, terce f.60 , sext f.63, none f.65, vespers f.68, and compline f.73; The Seven Penitential Psalms ff.77v-85v; Litany, petitions, and collects, ff.85v-93v; Office of the Dead, use of Paris, ff.94-125; prayer to the Trinity, Obsecro te, O intemerata and Stabat mater ff.125v-133v; Suffrages to the Virgin, Sts Michael, John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, Peter and Paul, James, Bartholomew, Steven, Laurence, Christopher, Sebastian, Nicholas, Claude, Louis, Anthony, Anna and the Virgin, Mary Magdalene, Catherine, Margaret, Genevieve and Columba ff.133v-146v.
The miniatures in the present Hours are by the Master of Jacques de Besançon, an illuminator whose dated works range from 1485 to 1498 and the last in a succession of three artists who headed the most prolific workshop in manuscript illumination in the second half of the 15th century — the others being the Master of Jean Rolin II and Maître François. He worked for a large number of wealthy and aristocratic patrons, including Cardinal Charles de Bourbon, for whom he produced a wonderful Greek Lectionary now at the Bibliothèque nationale (BnF MS Gr.55) and collaborated with Maître François on a splendid French translation of The Golden Legend (BnF MSS 244-5). As a product of this close collaboration, the Master of Jacques de Besançon inherits many aspects of Maître François’ style, handling and approach to illustration — which is why the artists were for many years conflated, at least until E.P. Spencer’s identification of the three chronologically successive artistic personalities (see E.P. Spencer, ‘L’Horloge de Sapience’, Scriptorium, xvii, 1963, pp. 277-299). The Master of Jacques de Besançon's figures are slighter and more elongated than his predecessor's, their features smoother and softer and the palette awash with tones of pink and yellow offset by swathes of gold and blue. The present manuscript is a fine example of this style.
The subjects of the miniatures are as follows: St John on Patmos f.15, The Betrayal of Christ f.20, The Annunciation f.29, The Visitation f.45, The Crucifixion f.53, Pentecost f.54v, The Nativity f.55v, The Annunciation to the shepherds f.60, The Presentation in the temple f.65, The Flight into Egypt f.68, The Coronation of the Virgin f.73, David and Bathsheba f.77v, Job on dung heap f.94, The Trinity f.125v.
The subjects of the smaller miniatures are: Luke f.16v, Matthew f.17v, Mark f.19, the Virgin and Child f.126, Michael f.134v, John the Baptist f.135, John the Evangelist f.135v, Peter and Paul f.136, James f.136v, Bartholomew f.137, Steven f.137v, Laurence f.138, Christopher f.138v, Sebastian f.139v, Nicholas f.141, Claude f.141v, Louis f.142v, Anthony f.143, Anna and the Virgin f.143v, Mary Magdalene f.144, Catherine f.144v, Margaret f.145, Genevieve f.145v, Columba f.146.