BOOK OF HOURS, use of Rome, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
159 x 110mm. 141 leaves: 17(of 8, i an excised blank), 26 + 2(final two leaves not in original position), 34(later addition), 41 + 10, 5-1010, 118(of 10, viii-x excised, an added leaf with replacement text), 121 + 10, 131 + 8(of 1 + 10, lacking ii & ix), 1410, 154, 168 + 1(of ?10, perhaps lacking i and x), 17 1(later addition, preceeded by a stub), likely that ff.13-14 originally followed ff.139v, 15 lines written in a gothic bookhand in black ink between two verticals and 16 horizontals, rubrics in red, one-line initials alternately blue flourished red and burnished gold flourished lilac, two-line initials of burnished gold with grounds and infills of crimson and blue with white decoration, FIFTEEN FULL-PAGE MINIATURES FRAMED BY BORDERS CONTAINING PUTTI, PEACOCKS, GAME-BIRDS, LEOPARDS, RABBITS AND MYTHIC BEASTS, cavorting among tendrils of golden foliage and opulent flowerheads within double fillets and interlace of gold and blue, at major text-openings facing TEN HISTORIATED INITIALS AND MATCHING FULL-PAGE BORDERS (small dampstain at top outer corners of ff.1-12 & 19-96, tiny losses from gold fillets of frames, occasional small pigment losses including one from Gabriel's wing on f.19v, gutters of ff.128-131 strengthened with vellum strips, paste on 131v where once fixed to 132). French 19th-century panelled brown morocco stamped and ruled in blind (very slight rubbing at corners of spine).
1. The coats of arms within wreaths held by putti in the lower borders of ff.20 and 110, sable a cross or with a label of 3 points, appear to be replacements of those of the original owner. The book was written for a woman et me famulam tuam ab omni adversitate custodi is included in the prayer Et pacem tuam nostris concede at the end of each hour of the Office of the Virgin. She seems likely to have been a member of the Sanseverino family: on folios 33v and 99, putti in the borders hold shields with the arms argent, a fess gules, and traces of these colours are discernable beneath the overpainted shields. These were the arms of the Salerno branch of the Sanseverino family. Roberto di Sanseverino (d.1474) was a companion-in-arms of Ferrante I, King of Naples who made him Prince of Salerno in 1463. His mother, Giovanna, a Sanseverino by birth as well as marriage, is the most likely candidate as original owner. A long-lived woman and a continuing power in the family, it was for her younger son Galeazzo that Matteo Felice illuminated the Hours later owned by Alfonso of Aragon (V&A, Salting 1224).
2. The goods of the Sanseverino were confiscated when Alfonso of Aragon suppressed the barons' revolt in 1485-86. Antonello, Prince of Salerno and grandson of Giovanna fled to Rome and his grandmother and young son were imprisoned in Castel Nuovo: R. Filangieri, Il codice miniato della Confraternità di Santa Marta in Napoli, 1950, pp.71-73. Galeazzo's arms in his Hours were then covered by those of Alfonso himself and it may have been around that time that the replacement, unidentified arms were added to the present manuscript.
3. Ambroise Firmin-Didot: bookplate inside front cover and no 12 in his 1879 catalogue and lot 16 in his sale June 1884, Catalogue illustré des livres précieux manuscrits et imprimés faisant partie de la bibliothèque de M. Ambroise Firmin-Didot.
4. Robert Hoe: bookplate inside front cover and no 2157 in his sale Anderson Auction Co, New York, 1 May 1911.
5. Thomas Jefferson Coolidge Jr (1863-1912) of Manchester Mass. or his son of the same name (1893-1959): armorial bookplate inside front cover.
6. Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Mass.
Calendar ff.1-12v; Gospel extracts and prayer to the Evangelists ff.13-18v; Office of the Virgin, use of Rome ff.20-97: matins f.20, lauds f.68, prime f.50, terce f.57, sext f.63, none f.68, vespers f.74, compline f.83; Office of the Cross ff.99-108; Seven Penitential Psalms and Litany ff.110-131; end of Gospel extract of St John f.132; Suffrages to Saints ff.133-141v: St Nicholas f.133, St Erasmus f.134, to Christ f.136 rubric'd for the vision of a priest of Burgundy and followed by prayers at the elevation of the body and blood, to Sts Peter and Paul f.139, to St Matthew f.140.
Folios 13 and 14, with the extract from the Gospel of Matthew, are not in their original position and seem likely to have once been associated with the final text block with the Suffrages, perhaps following the miniature of St Matthew of.139v. The texts ff.14v-18v, 97 and 140 are 19th-century replacements or additions.
This is an opulent book, rich in decorative content, with a profusion of burnished gold, and painted in saturated tones dominated by crimson and blue. The miniatures and borders are in the style developed in the workshop of Cola Rapicano (doc. 1455-1481) and the illuminators working for the royal library of the Aragonese Kings of Naples. On the basis of the Firmin-Didot catalogue, Tammaro De Marinis attributed the illumination to Matteo Felice (active from 1467-87): La biblioteca napoletana dei re d'Aragona, 1947, i, pp.158-159. In fact, like other extensively illuminated manuscripts produced in Rapicano's workshop for members of the Neapolitan court, it is the work of several artists. It is particularly close stylistically and in layout and decoration to a Franciscan Psalter-Hours (Geneva, Bibliothèque Publique et Universitaire, Coll. Comites Latentes, ms 198) which also includes miniatures attributable to Matteo Felice. That manuscript too was the work of several artists, and the painter of the standing saints seems also to have been responsible for three such miniatures in the Suffrages of the present book. He has recently been tentatively identified as the Neapolitan painter Angiolillo Aruccio: Gennaro Toscano, 'Matteo Felice: un miniatore al servizio del Re d'Aragon di Napoli', Bolletino d'Arte, 93-94, 1995, pp.87-118.
Like the miniatures the delightful borders are the work of several illuminators. All are inhabited with peacocks, gamebirds and rabbits, playful putti frolic among foliage, taunt or pursue the animals or grapple with serpents, dragons and lions: these borders exemplify illumination at the Aragonese court at its most charming.
Except for the Saints of the Suffrages, all full-page miniatures face text-openings with large historiated initials and full-page borders.
The subjects of the miniatures and the half-length figures in the facing initials are as follows:
Annunciation, facing an initial with the Virgin and Child, ff.19v-20; Visitation, facing an initial with a prophet, ff.33v-34; Nativity with the Annunciation to the shepherds in the background, facing an initial with a prophet, ff.49v-50; ; Adoration of the Magi, facing an initial with a prophet, ff.56v-57; Resurrection, facing an initial with a prophet, ff.63v-64; Ascension, facing an initial with a prophet, ff.67v-68; Pentecost, facing an initial with a prophet, ff.73v-74; Assumption, facing an initial with a prophet, ff.82v-83; Crucifixion, facing an initial with a Man of Sorrows, ff.98v-99; David playing the harp, facing an initial with David buried to the waist, ff109v-110; St Nicholas f.132v; St Erasmus f.133v; Burgundian priest being addressed by Christ f.135v; Sts Peter and Paul f.138v; St Matthew f.139v.