BOOK OF HOURS, use of Langres, in Latin and French, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
235 x 155mm. 103 leaves: 1-26, 35(v a singleton), 42, 57(ii a singleton), 6-98, 104, 11-158, 161, apparently COMPLETE but possibly lacking an inserted full-page miniature to open the Office of the Dead, 21 lines written in brown ink in a lettre bâtarde between two verticals and 22 horizontals ruled in dark pink, top and bottom across margins, justification: 132 x 78mm, one-line initials of burnished gold against grounds and infills of blue and pink with white penwork decoration, line-endings of the same colours, two- and four-line initials with frondy monochrome staves against grounds of pink or blue with liquid gold decoration, some infills of liquid gold with a monochrome flower or fruit, other initials with liquid gold staves against grounds of pink or blue with white decoration, four-line initials of similar types, FOUR SMALL MINIATURES with three-sided borders with sprays of acanthus and naturalistic flowers against grounds of liquid gold or unpainted parchment or shaped grounds of these colours or additionally of blue and dark pink, TWENTY LARGE OR FULL-PAGE MINIATURES accompanied by full-page borders of similar type but many containing birds, grotesques or beasts, PANEL BORDERS on every page with a two-line initial (inconsequential spots or smudges in a few margins, single wormhole in lower corner of five final folios). Contemporary panelled goatskin over wooden boards, ruled and tooled in blind, roll of diaper lattice with quatrefoil flowerheads (light rubbing of extremities, lacking added straps, clasps and pins).
1. The Office of the Virgin is for the use of Langres and the Calendar contains many feasts of special significance there: Mammes, (17 August) in gold, and the Translation of Mammes, (10 October) in red -- the saint's head is in the Cathedral of Langres -- Desiderius, Bishop of Langres (22 May) and the Dedication of the Church of Langres (26 August) also in red. At this period the diocese of Langres included Dijon, extending as far south as Saint Jean de Losne and west to Chablis.
2. There is a coat of arms at the foot of f.27, azure a chevron or accompanied by two crescents and a trefoil argent.
3. Claude Duboys: his ownership inscription in an 18th-century hand on the front endleaf.
4. The manuscript was with a Parisian bookseller in the 1960s when it was the subject of a study by J.-Fr. Reny, 'A propos d'un Livre d'Heures a l'usage de Langres', Mémoires de la Société des Lettres, Arts et Sciences de St Dizier, II (1970).
Calendar ff.1-12; Gospel Extracts ff.13-17; Suffrages to Sts Bernard f.18, Mary Magdalene f.19, Barbara F.20, Catherine f.21, Libaria f.22, Desiderius f.24, Nicholas f.25, Roch f.26; Office of the Virgin ff.27-62v: matins f.27, lauds f.33v, matins of the Cross f.40, Holy Spirit f.41, prime f.42, terce f.46, sext f.49, none f.52, vespers f.55, compline f.59; Seven Penitential Psalms and Litany ff.63-74; Office of the Dead ff.75-92v; series of prayers, opening with Obsecro te and O Intemerata ff.94-103v.
The borders and initials of this extensively illuminated Hours are precisely executed and of a variety of familiar types. They are the product of high-quality professional workmanship. They appear alongside colourful, charming miniatures painted in a naive and provincial style where surface pattern, copious liquid gold highlighting and complexity in settings compensate for the somewhat chaotic construction of space and figures. There is a striking similarity in this with some of the early work in La Fleur des Histoires of Jacques de Daillon, Seigneur du Lude (Christie's, 11 July 2000, lot 88). This is presumably the work of a local Burgundian illuminator, perhaps in Langres itself. The city was a centre of production for parchment and supplied the University of Paris in the 16th century. Nonetheless, few manuscripts made for use in Langres are known.
The recondite and rarely depicted legend of St Libaria, a virgin who was martyred in the Vosges and venerated in St Dié, is given a dramatic telling in the miniature on f.21v. A nattily dressed executioner raises his hand in alarm as the walls of the town behind tumble. The fatal tremor was triggered by the decapitated saint washing her severed head in the fountain. The facing prayer expands on the legend and tells how, once the head was washed and dried, Libaria buried it and was regenerated as a plant. Three other miniatures among the suffrages, Sts Desiderius, Nicholas and Roch are more restrained in composition and colour and seem likely to be of a slightly later date than the majority of the illumination.
The subjects of the full-page miniatures are as follows:
f.13 St John on Patmos
f.17v St Bernard
f.18v Mary Magdalene
f.19v St Barbara
f.20v St Catherine
f.21v The martyrdom of St Libaria
f.23v St Desiderius
f.24v St Nicholas
f.25v St Roch
f.42 Nativity with the Virgin and Joseph adoring the Christ Child
f.46 Annunciation to the Shepherds
f.49 Adoration of the Magi
f.52 Presentation in the Temple
f.55 Flight in to Egypt
f.59 Coronation of the Virgin
f.74v Burial service with the shrouded corpse being lowered into the grave
The small miniatures are: f.14v St Luke, 15v St Matthew, f.16v St Mark, f.94 Pietà