BOOK OF HOURS, use of Rome, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
Illuminated by Gerolamo da Cremona.
91 x 65mm. 210 leaves112, 2-910, 106, 118, 126, 13-2010, 214, 228, 236, COMPLETE, catchwords on centre of lower margin of final versos and cropped signature marks in lower outer corner of rectos in first halves of many gatherings, rubric and incipit of opening folio of Office of the Virgin in burnished gold, otherwise rubrics in red, one-line initials alternately of red or blue, more than two hundred two-line initials alternately of burnished gold and blue with penwork flourishing respectively of blue or red, the height of the page and containing delicately drawn cherubs' heads and birds, nine four-line illuminated initials with magenta staves with white decoration against grounds of burnished gold, the infills with a painted flowerhead and pointillé scrolling, accompanied by one-sided baguette borders of curling leaves of magenta, blue and dark green against burnished gold and sprays of magenta and blue flowerheads on hairline tendrils in upper and lower margins, FOUR HISTORIATED INITIALS five- to seven-lines high with full-page borders, the first with two putti supporting a wreath with a coat of arms, the others with MEDALLIONS WITH AN ANIMAL IN A LANDSCAPE (small losses of gold from outer edges of borders on f.13 and tiny smudge to Virgin's forehead and loss from sky behind one putto). English 17th-century russet morocco tooled in gilt with double fillet and palmette borders, spine gilt in five compartments with quatrefoil and foliate tools, edges of boards gilt with a foliate diaper (wormhole and two tiny cracks to spine, small crack at head of upper joint). Red morocco box.
MINIATURE BOOK OF HOURS ATTRIBUTABLE TO GEROLAMO DA CREMONA
1. Made for an abbot or bishop whose coat of arms, azure, an angel holding a palm beneath the blessing hand of God, is shown in the lower margin of folio 13.
2. Edward Whittaker Hennell: his bookplate inside upper cover
3. Martin Breslauer: his typed description included in the box
Calendar ff.1-12; Office of the Virgin ff.13-99: matins f.13, lauds f.28, prime f.52, terce f.57v, sext f.63, none f.67v, vespers f.72v, compline f.82, variants f.88; Mass of the Virgin ff.100-106v; Short Office of the Holy Spirit ff.107-112v; Office of the Dead ff.113-161; Office of the Cross ff.162-167v; Seven Penitential Psalms and Litany ff.169-194v; various prayers and devotions opening with Te rogo xriste pie precibus... and including the prayer to Christ on the Seven Last Words, attributed to Bede ff.195-210
This is not an extensively illuminated little manuscript, yet every aspect of the workmanship is of the highest quality, and the materials -- the combination of intense colours with highly burnished gold patterned with light-catching pointillé -- give the impression of opulence. It can be attributed to Girolamo da Cremona, one of the outstanding north Italian illuminators of the period. The border medallions with deer and monkeys resting in pebble-strewn landscapes, the distant striated outcrops bathed in a coloured light, the figures with small round heads on solid bodies in crisply defined drapery: all these are recognisable from his larger scale works. The curling, richly coloured acanthus of the borders suggests that this manuscript was painted when Girolamo was still influenced by his contact with Ferrarese illuminators at the d'Este court. The delicate and intricate flourishing of the initials, however, may indicate a rather later phase of his career. This delightful penwork with the inclusion of birds and cherubs' heads seems to be a particularly Venetian type (Susy Marcon 'Ornati de penna e di pennello: appunti su scribi-illuminatori nella Venezia del maturo umanesimo', La Bibliofilia, lxxxix (1987), 121-144). Perhaps Gerolamo's output in Venice in the 1470s was more varied than his celebrated large-format frontispieces in luxury incunables and it was during this time that he painted this intimate and directly appealing manuscript.
The historiated initials are as follows:
f.13 Virgin and Child in half-length, full-page border of curling leaves on a ground of burnished gold with a bas-de-page rock-strewn landscape with two red-winged putti holding a wreath with a coat of arms
f.113 Skeleton in half-length, full-page border of flowerheads on curling penwork tendrils and a panel of foliage on a gold ground in the upper margin, the lower margin with a medallion with a seated monkey in a landscape
f.162 St Helena in half-length, full-page border of flowerheads on curling penwork tendrils with a panel of burnished gold in the lower margin with foliage and a central medallion with a deer lying in hill-backed grassland
f.169 Penitent David in half-length, full-page border of flowerheads on curling penwork tendrils, the lower margin with a central medallion with a deer lying in a landscape
The large illuminated initials are on folios 28, 52, 57v, 63, 67v, 72v, 82, 100 and 107