BOOK OF HOURS, use of Rome, in Latin and French, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Burgundy, c.1480-90]232 x 160mm. i + 124 + iv leaves, COMPLETE: 1-36, 4-168, 173(of 6, iii + vi cancelled blanks), vertical catchwords on final versos, 14 lines written in black ink in a gothic bookhand between two verticals and fifteen horizontals ruled in pink, justification: 118 x 73mm, rubrics in red, one- and two-line initials alternately of gold on a red ground and silver on a blue ground, some with floral infills, similar line-endings, THREE HISTORIATED INITIALS with staves of liquid gold on dark red grounds, FOURTEEN FULL-PAGE MINIATURES containing small panels of text with large illuminated foliate initials in gold, silver, green or red on grounds of blue, red or green with contrasting infills (some areas of pigment loss affecting a few faces, draperies or sections of sky or buildings, most noticeable on ff.57v, 65, 75, 99v, some minor creasing or smudging). French 18th-century olive morocco gilt, bund papier endpapers (spine faded, some wear to extremities, a few wormholes). Red solander box.
1. In addition to the style of illumination which places this manuscript in Burgundy, particular saints revered in this region are included in the sparse calendar, with St Vincent of Besançon in gold (23 September), and in blue, Lupus (27 January) of Chalons-sur-Soâne and Claude of Besançon (6 June). The litany names Philibert (of Tournus Abbey), Gerald (prior of Cluny), Hugh (abbot of Cluny), Maieul and Consortian (Cluny), Benignus (Dijon) and Radegundis (presumably of Bassigny). The pentrial ['rege livre et onnez'] of an early owner appears in the margin on f.41 and family records have been erased from the margins of the opening calendar leaves.
2. 'Gabriel Delhabannes' or perhaps more likely, 'Gabriel de Chabannes', inscribed on final blank in a 16th-century hand, with monograms and a verse in French opening 'Lamour la mort la mer'; further inscriptions in Latin appear to be in a 17th-century hand and include the date 11 October 1[?]61. A Gabriel de Chabannes, chevalier was 'gentihomme de la chambre du roi' in the 16th century.
3. George Templeton Strong (1820-75), (inscribed on f.i), his sale, Bangs & Co., New York, 4 November 1878, lot 820; the lawyer and diarist celebrated for his account of the American Civil War.
4. William Waldorf Astor (1848-1919), 1st Viscount Astor -- by descent to his son, (Astor ms A.14, label applied to flyleaf), placed on deposit by the Trustees of the Astor estate at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, in 1966; Astor sale, Sotheby's, 21 June 1988, lot 64.
Calendar ff.2-13v; Gospel Sequences ff.14-19v; Hours of the Virgin, use of Rome ff.20-75: matins f.20, lauds f.33v, prime f.48, terce f.53, sext f.57v, none f.61v, vespers f.65v, compline f.72; Hours of the Cross ff.75v-79; Hours of the Holy Spirit ff.79v-83; Penitential Psalms and Litany ff.84-107v; Office of the Dead ff.108-125.
These striking miniatures are an outstanding example of the work of the Master of the Burgundian Prelates, one of the most original and enterprising illuminators of the late 15th century. Nicole Reynaud grouped a large number of manuscripts under this name which derives from the patronage of several highly placed, powerful church officials in Burgundy, including Antoine de Chalon, Bishop of Autun and Richard Chambellan, Abbot of St Etienne, Dijon; see 'Un peintre français de la fin du XVe siècle: le Mâitre des prelats bourguignons', Etudes d'art français offertes à Charles Sterling, 1975, pp.151-163 and R.S. Wieck, Late Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts... in the Houghton Library, 1983, p.36. The Hours associated with the Master and his workshop are for use in the vast dioceses of Autun and Langres and also reveal a prestigious Burgundian clientele; although many owners of these private devotional manuscripts have been localised to Dijon, the Master's centre of production or identity have yet to be established. Manuscripts grouped under the Master's name are varied in quality, but are characterised by an astonishing and rarely repeated variety in composition, iconography and mise-en-page (see Avril and Reynaud, p.393).
The rich invention associated with this Master's style is especially evident in these remarkable miniatures. All are full-page, a rare feature, their monumental quality recalling the large-scale miniature of the Crucifixion in the Missal of Richard Chambellan (BnF, ms Lat. 879, f.105v) and a reminder that the Master of the Burgundian Prelates, also termed 'peintre', is thought to have provided murals for Autun Cathedral. Shifting viewpoints show distant towns and tiny figures, and in the mid- and foregrounds, detailed walled cities, varied landscapes, meandering rivers, castles and churches. The principal compositions are embellished with multiple accessory scenes, many with groups of figures represented in camaïeu d'or to rich effect. The subjects of these smaller-scale scenes are extremely unusual; the majority are prefigurations of the main subject and draw upon the themed Types and Antitypes many of which are found in the Biblia Pauperum, see, for example, the Nativity miniature on f.48 and the corresponding scenes on p.49 of A. Henry, Biblia Pauperum: A Facsimile and Edition, 1987. The figures in the lower left corner on f.65v are so close to those in the Biblia Pauperum that it seems probable that they were copied directly from this source.
Particularly striking is the miniature opening the Psalms, where the tiny figure of David slays Goliath between opposing lines of Israelite and Philistine armies extending into the distance. Also of interest is the miniature opening the Litany, in itself a rarity, where the long procession of figures in camaïeu d'or which winds its way into a church doorway to the left and out along the centre of the page, recalls the Procession of St Gregory across ff.71v-72 of the Très Riches Heures.
Evident throughout is the Master's distinctive palette of burgundys, blues and purples, his use of highlights in fine gold hatched lines, carefully drawn architectural features and figures with calm, meditative faces with down-turned eyes. Most unusually, the Arcana Hours contains evidence of the artist's working methods: lightly sketched designs are visible on the reverse sides of most miniatures - the most extensive is a full and lively preparatory underdrawing for the miniature marking the opening of the Litany on ff.99v.
The subjects of the miniatures are as follows:
f.14 St John writing on Patmos; below, the destruction of Diana's temple and John turning sticks and stones into gold and jewels
f.20 Annunciation; below, Adam and Eve with the serpent wound around the apple-tree and Gideon in armour, praying before an angel and the miraculous Golden Fleece
f.33v Visitation, in the background a shepherd tending his flock, a traveller and a noble couple; below, the Marriage of the Virgin
f.48 Nativity, with angels guiding approaching shepherds towards the stable; below, Moses and the burning bush and Aaron's rod flowering on the altar
f.53 Annunciation to the Shepherds, set in pastures with oxen and sheep; below, shepherds cross a bridge, one with bagpipes, on their way towards a town
f.57v Adoration of the Magi; below, Abner before David, and the Queen of Sheba before Solomon
f.61v Presentation in the Temple; below, two scenes, showing the firstborn presented in order to be brought back and Anna's presentation of Samuel
f.65v Flight into Egypt, the parable of the Sower in the distance; below, Isaac with Esau, holding a bow and arrow, and Jacob taking flight having said farewell to Rebecca
f.72 Coronation of the Virgin
f.75v Crucifixion; below, Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac and Moses and the brazen serpent
f.79v Pentecost; below, Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai and Elijah's sacrifice is accepted
f.84 David cutting off Goliath's head between the opposing armies of the Israelites and the Philistines; below, David being lowered from a window on a rope by his wife Michol, evading Saul and his advancing troops, and David being crowned, beside the severed head of Goliath
f.99v Procession of St Gregory; below, the Three Living and the Three Dead
f.108 A man receives the Eucharist on his deathbed; below, a burial service.
The historiated initials show St Luke writing, an ox beside him (f.15v), St Matthew writing, with an angel holding his ink pot (f.17), St Mark writing, a lion beside him (f.18v).