BOOK OF HOURS, use of Rome, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
136 x 95mm. 207 leaves including final pastedown: 113(xiii a singleton), 2-410(of 10, lacking viii), 6-710, 88(of 10, lacking vii and viii), 102(lacking central folios), 112, 12-1310, 146, 15-1910, 204, 2110, 224, 23-2410, 259(of 10, lacking iii, x serving as pastedown), modern pencil foliation 1-199 missing leaves after folios numbered 20, 82, 91, 135, 159, 193 and 199 followed here, catchwords in centre lower margin of most final versos, 13 lines in black ink in a round gothic bookhand between two verticals and 14 horizontals ruled in pale ink, text justification: 76 x 50mm, rubrics in red, text capitals touched yellow, one-line initials alternately of red or blue with flourishing of the contrasting colour, two-line initials alternately of blue or burnished gold with flourishing of red and blue extending the height of the page, major text divisions open with FOURTEEN LARGE ILLUMINATED INITIALS four-lines high, with pink patterned staves, infills of blue decorated white, all against grounds of burnished gold and with foliate terminals of green, pink, orange and blue extending alongside hairline tendrils with gold disks into the margins, FIVE LARGE HISTORIATED INITIALS, seven to eight lines high, accompanied by full-page borders of similar forms but including birds or putti, one with a coat of arms, FULL-PAGE MINIATURE with surrounding border of the same type and including a coat of arms (flaking or fading of ink on several folios, including the opening of the Office of the Virgin, small hole in margin of opening folio, a few small losses of gold and pigment, small stain in margin below miniature touching border). Tan leather with modern gilt lettering-pieces, edges gilt and gauffered (spine and extremities rubbed).
1. The lower margins of the page-opening at the beginning of the Office of the Virgin each contain a coat of arms on the verso, per fesse or, argent and gules, with a rampant bull counterchanged over the lower two, and in chief a besant azure with three disks or below crossed ?swords and flanked by the initials I P, and on the recto, or with three bars gemel gules and a rampant lion azure overall. The latter arms are those of the Tedaldi of Florence. It seems likely that the Book of Hours was made on the occasion of a marriage.
2. Pencil notes in French inside upper cover
Calendar ff.1-12; Office of the Virgin use of Rome ff.14-82v; matins f.14, lauds f.23v, prime f.37, terce f.41v, sext f.46, none lacking one leaf f.49v, vespers f.52v, compline f.60v, variants ff.64v-82v; Seven Penitential Psalms and Litany ff.83-107v; Office of the Dead use of Rome ff.108-159v; Office of the Passion (rubric'd Office of the Cross) ff.160-169v: matins f.160, lauds f.169v; Hours of the Cross (rubric'd Office of the Passion) ff.170-173v (bound out of sequence); Office of the Cross continued ff.174-193v: remainder of lauds f.174, prime f.177, terce f.179v, sext f.182, none f.184, vespers f.186v, compline f.191; Prayers, opening with two to the Archangel Raphael ff.194-199v
The full-page miniature and the facing historiated initial that open the Office of the Virgin (ff.13v and 14) were painted by Ser Ricciardo di Nanni, one of the most brilliant illuminators of renaissance Florence. He was repeatedly employed by the de' Medici, first on manuscripts made for Piero and Giovanni, and then -- his greatest surviving works -- their father Cosimo il vecchio involved him on the decoration of a series of choirbooks for the Badia Fiesolana in 1461 and 1462. His style is supremely confident, fluid and appealing: he works in an economical technique with form simply defined by outline and subtly modelled with washes of varying opacity and tone. People of all ages and sexes have large, heavily lidded eyes, sombre expressions -- even the putti -- and make tender, expressive gestures. The illumination of the opening of matins of the Virgin is a fine, small-scale example of his work. Its similarity with his treatment of the same subject in one of the Badia choirbooks (Florence, Archivio di San Lorenzo, Corale H 207 f.4) -- both set in a loggia with pendentives and with Gabriel still approaching the seated Virgin -- suggest that this Book of Hours should not be dated too distantly from the choirbooks.
The remaining historiated intials were painted by a somewhat younger artist, Antonio di Niccolò, whose career overlapped Ricciardo's from 1468. It is possible, although perhaps unlikely, that the manuscript was left unfinished and Antonio undertook its completion at some later date. The style seems compatible with that of his earliest identified works. He too occupied a prominent and respected role in Florentine illumination.
The subjects of miniature and initials are as follows:
f.13v Annunciation, with the Virgin seated in a loggia reading as Gabriel rushes forward from the left, with a bird and a winged dragon in the border, facing
f.14 Virgin and Child, in half-length, with three winged putti in the border
f.83 King David harping, in half-length, with two birds in the border
f.108 Skeleton, in half-length, with two birds in the border
f.160 Cross on a rocky peak, with a putto in the border
f.170 Christ as Man of Sorrows, in half-length, with a putto in the border