BOOK OF HOURS, use of Paris, in Latin and French, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
156 x 114mm. 144 leaves (modern pencilled foliation includes 3bis): 12(early addition), 2-38, 46(contemporary addition), 5-88, 97(of 8, lacking i), 109(?of 8 + ix), 11-128, 136, 14-178, 182, 19-208(contemporary additions), 17 lines written in brown ink in a gothic bookhand between two verticals and 18 horizontals ruled in pink, justification: 90 x 57 mm, rubrics in red, calendar written in red, pink, blue and gold, text capitals touched yellow, one-line initials and line-endings in burnished gold on grounds of pink and blue patterned with white, two- and three-line initials with staves of pink or blue on burnished gold grounds with foliate infills, A FULL BORDER OF ENTWINED STEMS OF SEMI-NATURALISTIC LEAVES IN GREEN, GOLD AND BLUE ON EVERY PAGE (except one blank page and four added leaves), ELEVEN MINIATURES WITHIN SIMILAR BORDERS AND THREE-SIDED BARS of foliage, flowers or patterned bands, all employing gold, one border of gold vine leaves and small fowers on hairline tendrils on added leaf (lacking one leaf with miniature, wear to many pages, including some miniatures and the lower edges of many borders, face of St John damaged and repainted f.86, detailling of faces renewed f.90, a few borders trimmed into lower corner). Nineteenth-century brown morocco stamped in blind with gryphons and lions around a panel of rosettes, gilt edges (very lightly scuffed). Half-morocco case.
ONE OF THE BEDFORD MASTER'S EARLIEST BOOKS OF HOURS, WITH EXCEPTIONAL BORDERS, FROM THE DYSON PERRINS COLLECTION
1. Style and liturgical use indicate that the manuscript was made and extended in Paris. The calendar includes Parisian saints like Marcel (26 July and 3 Nov.), Genevieve (3 Jan. and 26 Nov.), who is also in the litany, and Fiacre (30 Aug.), for whom there is a memorial in the apparently contemporary additions. The prayers to the Virgin, added at the same time, are in the masculine. There are a few later annotations. 2. C.W. Dyson Perrins (1864-1958): armorial bookplate inside upper cover, with later number 38, as Sir G. Warner, Descriptive Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts in the Library of C.W. Dyson Perrins, 1920; earlier number 136 inside lower cover. Sold Sotheby's, 1 December 1959, The Dyson Perrins Collection, Part 2, lot 69.
Prayer to Christ, O bone Jhesu (early addition) ff.1-2; Calendar ff.3-13v; Gospel Extracts ff.14-17v; Obsecro te (contemporary addition) ff.17v-20; O intemerata (contemporary addition) ff.20v-23; Office of the Virgin, use of Paris, ff.24-71v: matins f.24, lauds f.41, prime f.48v, terce (lacking end) f.53, sext (lacking opening) f.56, none f.58v, vespers f.61v, compline f.67v; Penitential Psalms and litany ff.72-85v; Hours of the Cross ff.86-89v; Hours of the Holy Spirit ff.90-93v; Office of the Dead, use of Paris, ff.94-127v; Quinze joyes and Sept requêtes (contemporary addition) ff.128-134v; Memorials (contemporary addition) ff.135-143v: Trinity, Holy Spirit, Cross, Virgin, Sts Michael, John the Baptist, Peter and Paul, Andrew, Philip and James, John the Evangelist, James, Stephen, Lawrence, George, Denis, Christopher, Martin, Nicholas, Fiacre, Mary Magdalen, Katherine, Margaret.
This exceptional manuscript is among the earliest associated with the Bedford Master, the illuminator named from his work in the 1420s and 1430s for John, duke of Bedford, regent in Paris for Henry VI of England. The Master's beginnings are much debated but it now seems likely that the style of one man underlies both the great books from the mid-1410s onwards and the earlier manuscripts, which Millard Meiss had attributed to a 'Trend towards Bedford'.
The elegant figures, in type and careful facial modelling, resemble those by the Master in the Châteauroux Breviary, completed for the Dauphin, Louis of Guyenne, before his death in 1415. Compositionally, the miniatures relate more to the work of the Bedford and Boucicaut Masters in two Books of Hours dated 1408 (Oxford, Bodleian Library, Douce 144, and a dismembered volume from the Chester Beatty Collection, Ms 103). The elaborate and fantastic architecture of the Annunciation recalls the complex structure of the frontispiece to a copy of Sallust, attributed to the Bedford Master c.1404 (Paris, BnF. Ms lat.9684). For these manuscripts: E. Taburet-Delahaye with F. Avril, Paris 1400, les arts sous Charles VI, 2004, nos 55, 117, 185; I. Villela-Petit, Le bréviaire de Châteauroux, 2003.
The compositional relationship with miniatures in the Books of Hours of 1408 extends to two Books of Hours in the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, W.209 and W.265, also associated with the early Bedford Style: L. Randall, Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Walters Art Gallery, France 875-1420, 1989, cats. 86 and 87. None of these books, however, has the mistake characteristic of the Bedford Master found in the present volume. At the Annunciation to the Shepherds, f.53, the angel's scroll bears the inscription Peur natus est for Puer natus est, 'a boy is born', the Messianic prophecy from Isaiah 9 vi. This error is found in manuscripts by the Bedford Master and his Workshop from the Vienna Hours of the mid-1410s (ÖNB cod.1855) to the Hours of Prigent de Coëtivy of the mid-1440s (Dublin, Chester Beatty Library) and beyond; for some instances: L. Randall, Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Walters Art Gallery, France 1420-1540, 1992, pt 1, pp.57-58.
The enchanting borders, with their delicately entwined prickly holly leaves and thorny rose stems, have no parallel in the Bedford Master's known work. They are, indeed, apparently unique among illuminated manuscripts at this date. Comparisons have been drawn with the work of the Master of Walters 219 but his larger, more naturalistic flower and leaf sprays wind round the borders in a very different fashion: M. Meiss, French Painting in the Time of the Jean de Berry, the Limbourgs and their Contemporaries, figs.522-5, 529-31. Flowers and leaves sprouting from a central stem are found on the most prestigous pages of the duke of Berry's Brussels Hours, completed by 1403, and his Grandes heures, completed by 1409, but in these the stem substitutes for the framing bar or baguette.
In the miniature pages of the present Hours, the entwined stems are additional to the bars, indicating an unrelated source. The primary motivation may have been symbolic, since the two border illuminators both restrict the decoration to rose and holly. As in the traditional English Christmas carol, 'the holly bears a prickle as sharp as any thorn', just one of the ways it symbolises Christ's Passion; the rose with thorn, the inseparability of beauty and pain, could also refer to Christ's suffering that will bring salvation. The borders round the contemporary additions carefully repeat the rose and holly leaves but omit the thorns, perhaps a deliberate change to the meaning. In form, the imitations show an unusual concern for the volume's visual coherence, a tribute to the impact of the original eloquent decoration.
Christie's is grateful to Allen Farber for advice on this lot.
The subjects of the miniatures are as follows: the Annunciation f.24, the Visitation f.41, the Nativity f.48v, the Annunciation to the Shepherds f.53, the Presentation in the Temple f.58v, the Flight into Egypt f.61v, the Coronation of the Virgin against a gold diapered ground f.67v, David praying to the Lord in a landscape f.72, Christ on the Cross between the Virgin and St John against a gold diapered ground f.86, Pentecost with the Dove descending in billowing red and gold rays f.90, the Office of the Dead with a draped coffin flanked by three clerics at a lectern and four mourners, their faces concealed by black hoods.