BOOK OF HOURS, use of Rome, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[County of Flanders, c.1470]
217 x 140mm. ii paper + 83 leaves + ii paper: 16, 211(of 8 + i, v, ix, miniatures), 39(of 8 + v), 4-78, 89(of 8 + i, miniature), 99(of 8 + v, miniature), 107(of 8, viii cancelled blank), COMPLETE, 16 lines written in black ink in a gothic bookhand between two verticals and 17 horizontals ruled in brown, justification: 103 x 72mm, rubrics in red, text capitals touched yellow, line-endings in red and blue with gold disks, one-line initials alternately gold with dark blue flourishing and blue with red flourishing, two-line initials of gold on grounds of pink and blue patterned with white, eight large initials of similar type, seven with partial borders of acanthus fronds, flowers and fruit between gold disks on hairline tendrils, SIX FULL-PAGE MINIATURES FACING SIX LARGE INITIALS with staves of blue or pink on the contrasting ground with foliate infills on burnished gold, accompanied by TWELVE FULL BORDERS around gold miniature frames and gold text bars (slight smudging to some borders, margins slightly worn). 19th-century brown straight-grained morocco, stamped in blind, two engraved metal clasps, marbled endpapers (lacking one fastening, hinge split, top of spine defective).
1. The presence in red in the calendar of Amelberga (10 July), Bavo (1 Oct.) and Livinus (12 Nov.) indicates an intended use in Ghent; St Vedast is in red in the calendar (6 Feb.) and invoked in the litany, perhaps suggesting a connection with Arras. The style of the decoration is typical of Bruges and a manuscript written elsewhere could have been sent to Bruges for illumination. The prayers to the Virgin are in the masculine.
Calendar ff.1-6; Hours of the Cross ff.8-10v; Hours of the Holy Spirit ff.12-14v; Obsecro te ff.16-18; O intemerata ff.18-21; early addition of prayer to St Bernard f.21r and v; Office of the Virgin, use of Rome ff.23-58: matins f.23, lauds f.31v, prime f.41, terce f.44. sext f.46v, none f.48v, vespers f.51, compline f.56; Salve regina f.58v; Penitential psalms and litany ff.60-71v; Office of the Dead with three lessons only, appropriate to the use of Rome.
Willem Vrelant was probably the most influential of the leading illuminators in Bruges in the third quarter of the 15th century. The linear clarity of his style made it easily imitated and this Book of Hours is typical of the colourful and attractive volumes produced to satisfy the home and export markets that flourished at Bruges. The simplified figures, with features drawn in brown, are particularly close to a Bruges Book of Hours now in the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, W.229: L. Randall, Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Walters Art Gallery, III, Belgium, 1997, no.266. The borders of the Walters Hours and the present manuscript are also extremely close in design and execution. The matching of borders across the miniature openings and the harmonising of their colours with those of the miniatures are typical features of Bruges book production, enhanced in this manuscript by the wide margins.
The subjects of the miniatures are as follows: the Crucifixion f.7v, Pentecost f.11v, the Lamentation f.15v, the Annunciation f.22v, David f.59v, Office of the Dead recited round a coffin in a church f.72v.