BOOK OF HOURS, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[?Paris, c. 1430]
225 x 165mm. 228 leaves (lacking one leaf of text). Collation: 112, 2-108, 116, 12-258, 266, 27-288 (lacks 28/8), 296 (lacks blank f.6); ruled in red, justification 96 x 63mm., 12 lines, written in brown ink in a gothic textura, rubrics in red, one- and two-line initials in gold on red and blue ground with white tracery and similar line-fillers, 6 three- or four-line initials with similar decoration, illuminated outer and mostly inner panel borders throughout of sprays, gold ivyleaves on hairline stems and painted flowers, 21 LARGE MINIATURES, ARCHED, WITHIN FULL BORDER of gold ivy leaves and bezants on hairline stems and painted acanthus leaves, surrounding three-quarter baguette borders, IN VERY GOOD CONDITION WITH WIDE MARGINS, 18th century French red morocco (holes for clasps), green silk liners, edges gilt, in half morocco case.
1). The Hours may have been intended for the use of a lay Dominican. The Office of the Dead is of Dominican use. The use of the Office of the Virgin is unrecorded.
2). Didier-Petit 1849 (note in pencil on fly-leaf)
3). Firmin-Didot Collection, sale 11 June 1883 (lot 8), there attributed to the Bedford Master.
4). Baron Horace de Landau - Madame Finaly, sale Sotheby's, 12 July 1948 (lot 58)
5). H. Harvey Frost, booklabel.
Calendar (f.1); Gospel Sequences (f.13); Hours of the Virgin, Matins (f.21), Lauds (f.35v), Prime (f.50), Tierce (f.57v), Sext (f.63v), None (f.69), Vespers (f.74v), Compline (f.83v); Hours of the Cross, Lauds (f.91), Prime (f.93), Tierce (f.94v), Sext (f.96), None (f.97v), Vespers (f.99), Compline (f.100v); Hours of the Holy Ghost (f.102v); Les quinze joyes de nostre dame (f.110v); Sept requestes de nostre seigneur (f.117v); Prayers (f.121); Penitential Psalms (f.124); Office of the Dead (f.146); Obsecro te (f.201); Seven verses of St. Bernhard (f.206); Prayers and Suffrages to the Saints (f.208).
This is an exceptionally fine manuscript and it is particularly tantalising that it has not proved possible to identify or even localise the workshop that furnished its rich and attractive illumination. The style of both the borders and miniatures appears to be thoroughly grounded in Parisian illumination of the 1420s, but without precise analogy in any known manuscript. Most of the miniatures are the work of two artists. One was responsible for the miniatures in the first half of the manuscript up to and including the Presentation in the Temple (f.69) and the final two, David in Prayer (f.124) and the Funeral Service (f.146). His miniatures are close to those of some manuscripts attributed to the Master of the Munich Golden Legend, for example the Book of Hours in the British Library (Additional 18192). He shares with the Master the debt, which was recognised by John Plummer, to the Master of Egerton 1070. But our Master worked in a distinctive and individual style, his figures are differently proportioned from those of the Munich Golden Legend Master, they are more compact and have larger heads, and his technique is more painterly, showing less reliance upon a dark definite outline to flesh and feature. Where a motif seems to have been borrowed, for example Joseph being seated in a wooden chair in the Nativity (f.50) as he is in the British Library Hours, something is added, in this case the delightful gesture of Joseph proferring a flower to the Virgin. The miniature of David in Prayer (f.124), where the King is shown in the act of kneeling, the tails of his mantle flying out behind him, is equally original.
With the exception of the Virgin and Child (f.110v) and the Betrayal (f.91), the remaining miniatures were painted by a second illuminator. His first appearance in the manuscript is the stunning sunset Flight into Egypt (f.74v) where the sky and distant landscape are coloured red and the clouds are gilt. This artist's use of green underpainting for flesh tones suggests that he may have originated in Belgium. Other aspects of his style, however, are completely integrated with those of his collaborator: the unusual Dove in the Trinity (f.117v) for example is either a direct quotation or is based on the same model as the eagle of St. John (f.13) in the first miniature.
THE SUBJECTS OF THE MINIATURES ARE:
folio 13. St. John writing, the eagles holding the parchment against a diapered background
folio 20. Annunciation in a vaulted chamber, the Virgin under a green canopy which an angel pulls back
folio 35v. Visitation, in front of a gothic castle, at back a church in a landscape
folio 50. Nativity. The Virgin suckling the Child, Joseph presenting her with a flower
folio 57v. Annunciation to the Shepherds, a landscape with a windmill, diapered background
folio 63v. Adoration of the Magi, against a diapered background
folio 69. Presentation in the Temple
folio 74v. The Flight into Egypt, in the background a castle on a hill against a red gold-streaked sky
folio 83v. The Coronation of the Virgin, against a diapered background
folio 91. The Betrayal. Christ's hand stilling the blood flowing from Malchus' ear
folio 93. Christ before Caiaphas (border slightly smudged)
folio 94v. The Scourging of Christ in a gothic chamber with tiled floor, two onlookers watching through the windows
folio 96. The road to Calvary, Christ carrying the Cross, a diapered background
folio 97v. The Crucifixion, against a diapered background
folio 99. Deposition. Joseph of Arimathea on a ladder untying Christ. Against a diapered background
folio 100v. Pietà. The Virgin, Mary Magdalen and others lamenting over the body of Christ. Against a diapered background
folio 102v. Pentecost. The Virgin and Apostles, the Dove descending against a diapered ground
folio 110v. The Virgin and Child enthroned, against a diapered background
folio 117v. The Holy Trinity, against a diapered background
folio 124. King David at prayer, beside him his golden harp, God above surrounded by seraphim, against a diapered ground
folio 146. A funeral service. Three priests and mourners