BOOK OF HOURS, use of Rome in Latin and Dutch, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
201 x 135mm, 143 leaves, 16(of 8, i as pastedown, ii cancelled blank), 2-108, 113, 12-188, 196(of 8, vii cancelled blank, viii as pastedown), singletons with miniatures removed from before ff.7, 14, 21, 35, 18 lines written in black ink in a lettre bâtarde between two verticals and 19 horizontals ruled in violet, justification: 82 x 166mm, rubrics in red, text capitals touched yellow, one-line initials in burnished gold flourished in dark blue and in blue flourished in red, line-endings in gold and blue, two-line initials in burnished gold on grounds and infills of blue patterned with white and of pink patterned with gold, some pink infills with heraldic lions, fleur de lys and sparking firesteels, TWENTY-SIX LARGE HISTORIATED INITIALS with staves of blue patterned with white on grounds of burnished gold and pink patterned with gold, SEVENTEEN SMALL MINIATURES and TWO MARGINAL MINIATURES, all these with FORTY-FIVE FULL-PAGE BORDERS around three-sided bar baguettes in gold with blue and gold acanthus alternating with sprays of flowers and fruit, interspersed with gold disks and penwork dots and inhabited by numerous figures, animals and grotesques, some relating to the initials and miniatures (slight smudging and rubbing to some borders, affecting the miniature on f.86 and a few initials, with some offsetting, upper margin of f.1 trimmed). Flemish 16th-century panelled goatskin over wooden boards, each cover with two impressions of a panel with a border of vine leaves and grapes around the signature IOHANNES GUILEBERT between compartments of four linked foliage roundels each with a pair of monkeys or birds, between the two panels, on the upper cover a row of two fleur de lys alternating with quadrilobes between two rows of eight bees, on the lower cover four roundels each with a different bird between the bees, metal clasps (catches and clasps renewed, repairs to spine).
1. The manuscript was made for the couple shown at prayer in historiated initials on ff.21 and 82; perhaps particularly for the wife, as she is shown alone in the borders by St Michael, f.84, and St Agatha, f.94v; her name may have been Agatha. Their costume, signalling noble rank, is identical in fashion to that in the name work of the Bruges Master of 1473 (Brussels, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique). The sparking firesteels, lions and fleur de lys found in the initials are all badges or armorial charges of the Dukes of Burgundy; Philip the Good's firesteel became one of the additional emblems of his chivalric Order of the Golden Fleece. This man was not a Knight of the Order, since he does not wear its badge or collar, but he may have held a ducal appointment, or he and his wife may have been members of the Burgundian court. The book, with its extensive cycles of offices and prayers, was probably written as well as illuminated for them: the Obsecro te is in the masculine and the O intemerata in the feminine. They presumably lived in, or came from, Ghent since the Calendar has feasts in red for Sts Pharahildis (4 January), Amand (6 February), Bavo (1 October), Livinus (12 November) and in black for Macharius (9 May), whose relics were in St Bavo's Abbey. Sts Livinus and Macharius are invoked in the Litany.
2. Bound in Ghent c.1525-40: Johannes Guilebert's bindings are on books dating from 1532 and 1538 and he has been localised to Ghent from his association with Joris de Gavere, who was active there c.1530.
3. The Franciscan Joseph van Uittenhoeve: his ex libris ad usum simplicem stamped in red.
Calendar ff.1-6; Hours of the Cross ff.7-13v: matins f.7, prime f.8, terce f.9, sext f.10, none f.11, vespers f.12, compline f.13; Hours of the Holy Spirit ff.14-20v: matins f.14, prime f.15, terce f.16, sext f.17, none f.18, vespers f.19, compline f.20; Mass of the Virgin, ff.21-25; Gospel extracts ff.25v-29v; Obsecro te ff.29v-32v; O intemerata ff.32v-34; Office of the Virgin, use of Rome ff.35-79: matins f.35, lauds f.49, prime f.57v, terce f.61, sext f.64v, none f.67v, vespers f.70v, compline f.76; Salve regina, Five Joys of the Virgin with the only rubric in Dutch ff.79v-81v; prayer on the Seven Last Words ff.82-83v, Suffrages ff.84-96: to Sts Michael f.84, John the Baptist f.84v, Peter f.85, John the Evangelist f.85v, James f.86, Christopher f.86v, Augustine f.87v, Erasmus f.88, Adrian f.89v, Catherine f.90v, Barbara f.91v, Margaret f.92v, Agatha f.93v, Elizabeth of Hungary f.94, Mary Magdalen f.95, All Saints f.95v; prayers to be said at the Elevation, to Christ and to the Cross ff.96v-97v; Penitential Psalms ff.98-106; Litany and prayers ff.106-110v; Office of the Dead, use of Rome ff.111-143.
The extensive illumination is in a style derived from Willem Vrelant, one of the leading illuminators in Bruges from at least 1454 until his death in 1481. The small miniatures and historiated initials share his narrative verve but the figures are stiffer and more angular, with larger heads, and there is a greater reliance on line to detail and to reinforce contours. These are all characteristics of an identified associate or assistant of Vrelant who collaborated on the second volume of the Chroniques de Hainaut completed in 1468 for Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy (see B. Bousmanne, "Item a Guillaume Wyelant aussi enlumineur", exh. cat. Brussels, KBR, 1997, esp. pp.55-60 and ills. 9-11). He is known either as the Master of the Vraie chronique descoce, from a chronicle of Scotland with a colophon of 1464 which was complete when inventoried after the death of Philip the Good in 1467 (Brussels, KBR, MS 9469-70), or as the St Hadrian Master, named from the miniature of that saint in a Golden Legend, divided between Mâcon (Bibl. Mun. MS 3) and New York (Pieront Morgan Library, M.672-M.675): see J. Caswell, 'Two manuscripts from the Chroniques II Workshop, Chroniques de Hainaut, volume II and the Morgan-Mâcon Golden Legend', Revue belge d'archéologie et d'histoire de l'art, 62, 1993, pp.17-45. Given the difference in scale the men in the Vraie chronique descoce miniature (ill. Bousmanne, p.59) are very like figures such as St Adrian here, f.89v.
In this Hours, compositions current in the Vrelant workshop are confidently compressed to focus on the essentials of the narrative. John the Baptist, for instance, addresses the Lamb of God at his feet and God the Father sends down the Dove of the Holy Spirit to strengthen St Margaret as in a very fine Vrelant hours in the J. Paul Getty Museum (MS Ludwig IX 8, ff.43, 74, 57, A. von Euw and J, Plotzek, Die Handschriften der Sammlung Ludwig, Bd 2, Cologne 1982, Abb.160, 177, 170). Other less usual features may have been specially commissioned, most notably the cycle of the Seven Acts of Corporeal Mercy which illustrates the Hours of the Holy Spirit, Whose Seven Gifts could be considered their inspiration.
The luxuriant borders are unusually complex for the Vrelant workshop, with their lively figures and grotesques often interacting with the acanthus and flower and fruit stems. Grotesques often mirror the action of the main miniature, brandishing weapons by the Passion initials, for example, and holding the stem of a bunch of grapes, a Eucharistic symbol, below the Deposition. Other figures develop the main subject, like the additional recipients or providers of charity by the Acts of Mercy, for example the doctor examining urine below the Visitation of the Sick, f.19. Other marginalia may have less specific meanings: beside the Mass of the Virgin, f.21, a man squeezes a strawberry, symbol of transitory pleasure, as he looks up at a seated woman. Others are perhaps chiefly for enjoyment: a siren has the same fashionable headdress as the owner on f.82; she herself appears between two fighting cocks and a man whose hindquarters become a bird eating a naked child, f.93v.
While opting for many characteristic features of manuscripts from the Vrelant workshop, the commissioners ensured that they received a richly and distinctively illuminated Book of Hours, celebrating their connection with the Valois Dukes of Burgundy.
The subjects of the miniatures are as follows:
f.82 Couple kneeling before a large Crucifix on an altar
f.84 St Michael trampling on the devil
f.84v St John the Baptist in the wilderness
f.85 St Peter
f.85v St John the Evangelist
f.86 St James
f.86v St Christopher carrying the Christ Child over the river, watched by the hermit
f.87v St Augustine
f.88 Martyrdom of St Erasmus
f.89v St Adrian standing on a lion, the image popularised by the pilgrimage Abbey of St Adrian, Gerardsbergen
f.90v St Catherine standing on the Emperor
f.91v St Barbara between an altar and her tower
f.92v St Margaret bursting from the dragon
f.93v St Agatha
f.94 St Elizabeth of Hungary
f.95 St Mary Magdalen
f.95v All Saints, where St Agnes with her lamb and perhaps Sts Margaret, Catherine and Victor are identifiable
The subjects of the historiated initials are as follows: Betrayal and Arrest of Christ f.7, Christ before Pilate f.8, Flagellation f.9, Christ carrying the Cross f.10, Crucifixion f.11, Descent from the Cross (smudged) f.12, Entombment f.13, Feeding the Hungry f.14, Giving Drink to the Thirsty f.15, Clothing the Naked f.16, Sheltering the Traveller f.17, Visiting the Prisoner f.18, Tending the Sick f.19, Burying the Dead f.20, Mass with kneeling couple f.21, Pietà with Sts John and Mary Magdalen f.29, Marriage of the Virgin f.35, Visitation f.49, Nativity f.57v, Annunciation to the Shepherds f.61, Adoration of the Magi f.64v, Presentation in the Temple f.67v, Massacre of the Innocents f.70v, Flight into Egypt f.76, Last Judgement f.98, Funeral Service f.111.
The subjects of the marginal miniatures are as follows: St John the Evangelist on Patmos, a devil stealing his ink and pencase f.25v, the Virgin and Child and St John f.32v.