BOOK OF HOURS, use of Coutances, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[?Brittany or western Normandy, c.1480]
220 x 157mm. 108 leaves: 1-26, 3-48, 54, 6-78, 84, 9-158 COMPLETE, 16 lines written in brown ink in a gothic bookhand between two verticals and 17 horizontals ruled in pink, top and bottom across margins, justification: 121 x 73mm, rubrics in red, one-line initials of liquid gold on grounds of pink, blue or brown decorated with liquid gold flowers or fronds, line-endings of the same colours, two- to four-line initials alternately of blue or pink with white penwork decoration against burnished gold grounds with a flower spray in the infill, SEVEN LARGE HISTORIATED INITIALS accompanied by three-sided borders with sprays of blue and gold acanthus and naturalistic flowers and fruit interspersed with gold disks and containing birds, beasts and grotesques, SIX ARCH-TOPPED MINIATURES accompanied by full-page borders of the same forms (slight staining to first and last leaves, erasure of the charge in the shields of the border and small smudge around Gabriel's hand in the miniature of f.13). French, probably Parisian, binding of the third quarter of the 16th century: gold-tooled calf over pasteboard, sides with large arabesque hatched centre- and corner-pieces on a field semé with stars and flowers, spine in five compartments tooled with wreaths containing small floral sprays (some wear to covers, small splits in joints).
1. The manuscript was apparently made for use in the diocese of Coutances: both the Office of the Virgin and the Office of the Dead are for the use of that see, the Feast of St Clarus (18 July) is included in red in the Calendar and Laudus, Bishop of Coutances is among the Confessors of the Litany. Perhaps the presence in the Litany of Maclou, patron of St Malo and Samson, first Bishop of Dol indicate an original destination around the bay of St Malo.
2. The arms of an early owner were added twice to the border of the opening of the Office of the Virgin. The charge has been erased but the the field is gules.
3. Susanne de Godefroy d'Ingreville of Lille: her record on the third from final paper endleaf of her marriage in 1638 to Vincent des Maires, an inventory of her relics, and wishes for her children René, Susanne and Jeanne to live in fear of God.
4. The first paper endleaf has a pencil inscription in a 19th-century hand reading 'Formerly in the Library of Marguerite de Navarre' this has, apparently, been miscopied in ink as 'volume già appartenente a Margharita di Savarra'.
5. Michele Cavaleri: a note recording the purchase of the manuscript in January 1874, partially cancelled, appears to be his. Michele Cavaleri built up an enormous collection of antiquities, paintings, prints, drawings, manuscripts and printed books. He tried to negotiate its sale to the city of Milan in the early 1870s, but when that failed the collection was sold, in 1873, to Enrico Cernuschi, republican hero of the Risorgimento. Cavaleri gave an account of his collecting and his recriminations against the city of Milan in his book, Il Museo Cavaleri e il Municipio di Milano, 1875. It appears from this manuscript that immediately after the sale of one collection he started to form another.
6. The manuscript was in Spain by 1956: a brief description of the manuscript in Spanish is written below the name Joaquim on the second paper endleaf.
Calendar ff.1-12; Office of the Virgin, use of Rome interspersed with Hours of the Cross and of the Holy Spirit ff.13-60v: matins f.13, lauds f.22v, matins of the Cross f.33, matins of the Holy Spirit f.34v, prime f.36, terce f.41, sext f.44v, none f.48, vespers f.53, compline f.56; Seven Penitential Psalms and Litany ff.61-76v; Office of the Dead ff.77-106; Extract from the Gospel and Suffrage of St John ff.106v-108
These are carefully detailed miniatures in both composition and technique. Settings, particularly the distant townscapes, are complex and the figures are precisely drawn with great attention paid to the modelling of their features and the details of their dress. Delicate webs of liquid gold highlight drapery and landscape. The miniatures are surrounded by borders housing unusually large, often menacing, hybridised grotesques painted with an equal care: this is a striking and handsome combination. Although the manuscript was clearly made for use in Coutances neither the borders nor the miniatures have obvious links with the dominant styles of Norman illumination. The frondy acanthus is more typical of Tours borders, and the subdued tonality of the miniatures with the reliance on outlining in brown is more evocative of manuscripts made in central France.
The subjects of the large miniatures are as follows:
f.36 Nativity with the Virgin and Joseph adoring the Christ Child
f.53 Flight into Egypt with the Miracle of the Corn
f.61 David in Penitence
f.77 The Three Living and Three Dead
The historiated initials contain the following scenes in half- or three-quarter length:
f.41 Annunciation to the Shepherds
f.44v Presentation in the Temple
f.48 Adoration of the Magi
f.56 Coronation of the Virgin
f.106v St John on Patmos