BOOK OF HOURS, in Latin and French, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
108 x 75mm. 138 leaves: 112, 2-78, 86, 9-178, COMPLETE, catchwords down inner verticals of final versos, 17 lines in brown ink in a lettre bâtarde between two verticals and 18 horizontals ruled in pale brown, justification: 65 x 40mm, rubrics in red, one- and two-line initials of liquid gold on grounds of blue or brownish-pink with frond-like gold decoration, four-line initials of blue or dark pink with decoration in gold against grounds and infills of the other colour, THIRTEEN LARGE MINIATURES accompanied by full-page borders with sprays of blue and gold acanthus and naturalistic flowers and fruit, one miniature with an architectural frame and a grotesque in the lower border (four upper borders slightly cropped, repair to lower outer corner of ff.33 and 89, thumbing to borders of ff.13, 37 and 89, pigment losses in the backgounds of miniatures on ff.13, 72 and 89 and to the Virgin's face on f.55, miniature on f.47 smudged). Parisian 16th-century panelled dark calf, tooled in gilt with an interlace design on a paler dotted field within a double fillet border, single tool in each spine compartment, edges gilt (upper joint cracking, lacking two fore-edge ties, loss of gilding from lower cover).
The style of the illumination and the Suffrages to Gatian and Lidorius, first and second Archbishops of Tours, indicate the origin of the manuscript in that city and, although varying in one antiphon, the use of the Office of the Virgin is closer to Tours than to any other published use. The original owner is likely to have had a particular devotion to St Sebastian, to whom there are two suffrages, one of which is the only prayer to be illustrated. The shield with the letters I and M joined by a knot was painted after the original campaign of decoration. The manuscript remained in France in the 16th century when it received its present binding. Coded prices written in a 19th-century hand inside the upper cover appear to be in pounds, shillings and pence.
Calendar ff.1-12; Office of the Virgin ff.13-66: matins f.13, lauds f.23v, Office of the Cross f.34, Office of the Holy Spirit f.35v, prime f.37, terce f.43, sext f.47, none f.51, vespers f.55, compline f.62; Gospel Extracts ff.67-71v; Seven Penitential Psalms and Litany ff.72-88v; Office of the Dead, use of Rome ff.89-121v; Suffrages to Saints John the Baptist, Lawrence, Anthony Abbot and Barbara followed by prayer to the Virgin ff.122-126; Suffrages to Saints Sebastian, the Trinity, Archangel Michael, Peter and Paul, Christopher, Gatian, Lidorius, Martin, Nicholas, Francis, Sebastian, Saturninus, Archangels, Christ, the Sacrament, the Virgin ff.126v-138.
The figure style and the atmospheric quality of the miniatures place this manuscript among the group of small Books of Hours discussed by Nicole Reynaud as belonging to the 'atelier de Jean Fouquet': F. Avril & N. Reynaud, Les manuscrits à peintures en France, 1440-1520, 1993, pp.149-152.
The page lay-out and decorative vocabulary are particularly close to an Hours for the use of Paris from this group (BnF, n.a.lat. 3203) -- even to the inclusion of a camaïeu d'or beast in the border beneath the Annunciation -- while the placid-featured and compact figures appear close relations to those in the half-length compositions of the Hours of François de Bourbon-Vendôme (Paris, Bib. de l'Arsenal, Ms 417). The latter manuscript is described by Reynaud as by a direct follower of Fouquet, perhaps one of his sons.
The origins of Jean Bourdichon -- the immediate successor of Fouquet as court painter and leading illuminator in Tours -- have often been sought among the Books of Hours grouped as 'atelier de Fouquet' and comparison of some of the miniatures of the present manuscript with accepted early works of Bourdichon, like the Book of Hours in the J.P. Getty Museum (Ms 6), demonstrate their affinity. Similarities extend beyond compositions -- such as the Visitation -- to details of execution. The gridded cross-hatching in liquid gold that is seen as a characteristic feature of Bourdichon is used to enliven and highlight drapery in this Hours. It is clear that a common source and influence formed and informed both Bourdichon and the illuminator of the present appealing manuscript.
The subjects of the large miniatures are as follows:
f.13 Annunciation, set in a renaissance loggia with a landscape beyond, set in an architectural frame supported on the backs of two lions
f.34 Crucifixion with the Virgin and the Evangelist
f.37 Nativity with the Virgin and Joseph adoring the Christ Child
f.43 Annunciation to the shepherds
f.47 Adoration of the Magi
f.51 Presentation in the Temple
f.55 Flight into Egypt
f.62 Coronation of the Virgin
f.72 David harping (half-length)
f.89 Job on the dunghill