BOOK OF HOURS, use of Rome, in Latin and French, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Rouen, c.1520]158 x 96mm. ii + 191 + ii leaves (with modern pencilled foliation omitting leaf after f.23 and final two blanks) : 17(of 6 + i), 26, 310(of 8 + i and vii), 49(of 8 + vii), 56, 68, 79(of 8 + viii), 88, 912(of 8 + ii, iv, vi and x), 1010(of 8 + iv and ix), 119(of 8 + iv), 129(of 8 + iii), 138, 149(of 8 + i), 158, 169(of 8 + ii), 17-228, 235(of 6, iv cancelled blank, vi glued to endpaper), the singletons all for inserted miniatures, probably lacking a miniature on an inserted leaf before f.38 and perhaps another before f.32, TEXT COMPLETE, 20 lines written in brown in a hybrid bookhand between two verticals and 21 horizontals ruled in pink/violet, justification: 97 x 50mm, rubrics in blue, one- to four-lines initials with monochrome grey staves on grounds of liquid gold sometimes with red or blue balls or leaves, linefillers of the same type or as ragged staffs in liquid gold, TWELVE BIPARTITE CALENDAR MINIATURES containing the appropriate activity and zodiac sign for each month, FIFTEEN FULL-PAGE MINIATURES IN ARCHITECTURAL SURROUNDS with naked putti cavorting over them, facing SEVENTEEN FULL-PAGE BORDERS with surrounds of liquid gold or blue with monochrome or naturalistic foliage, candelabra, jewels, birds, beasts, putti or grotesques (a few slight pigment losses, mostly affecting magenta robes). Modern brown panelled morocco with gilt turn-ins (rubbing to centre top and bottom of covers).
A FINE UNPUBLISHED HOURS BY THE ANGO MASTER
1. The manuscript was probably made in Rouen, since the Calendar follows a Rouen model with St Romain in gold, October 23, and there are suffrages to Saints Romain and Mellon; the illumination is by a master localised in Rouen. The armorial miniature, f. 1v, and the blazoned shields hanging on borders (ff. 88v, 130v) show the manuscript was made for a member of the Gauvignon family of Orléans (azure a chevron or accompanied by a crescent or en pointe, a chief gules charged with three besants or). The prayers to the Virgin are in the masculine, ff.32-37.
Calendar in French, written in red, blue, and gold, ff.2-13v; Gospel extracts, ff.15-19v; Passion according to St John, ff.21-28v; Prayers to the Virgin: Stabat mater ff.30-31v, Obsecro te ff.32-34v, O intemerata ff.35-37; Hours of the Virgin, with Hours of the Cross, beginning f.65, and Hours of the Holy Spirit, beginning f.67, and the Holy Ghost intermixed, ff.38-110: matins f.38, lauds f.54, prime f.69, terce f.74, sext f.79, none f.83v, vespers f.89, compline f.97; Seven Penitential Psalms with litany, ff.112-129v; Office of the Dead, ff.131-167v; Prayers to Christ, the Virgin, Trinity, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Sts Michael, John the Baptist, Peter and Paul, James, Stephen, Lawrence, Sebastian, Adrian, Martin, Fiacre, Nicholas, Mellon, Romain, Anne, Katherine, Margaret, Apollonia, Mary Magdalene, Barbara, after communication and to the Sacrament, ff.168-187v.
This sophisticated and elegant manuscript was illuminated by the Master of the Ango Hours, the artist named after a manuscript made for a member of the Ango family of Normandy (Paris, BnF, n.a.lat. 392). Textual evidence shows that he was based in Rouen and most of his manuscripts appear to have been made in the 1520s, although his career may have begun earlier, and he was certainly active beyond 1530. His personal style is marked by graceful figures with vivid gestures and plain pale faces. Subtle landscapes in pale milky greens and blues or buildings in light greys demonstrate his taste for subtle colour effects, also evident in his unusual preference of white and grey for drapery.
Another characteristic feature of his work, and used to great effect in the present manuscript, is the renaissance architectural framing decorated with festoons and populated by playful putti. They only become more sedate when they hold skulls beside the impressive figure of Death with a scythe at the Ofiice of the Dead, f.130v. These putti also romp around many of the borders and lend his work a particular charm. He was one of the most original and distinctive illuminators of his day. He escaped from the dominant influence of his Parisian contemporaries, the style once labelled that of the 1520s Hours workshop but now associated with the name of the artist Noël Bellemare.
Most of the subjects follow the traditional iconography of Books of Hours except at the beginning of lauds where the usual scene of the Visitation is replaced by Gideon and the fleece: this may have been chosen as a typological companion to the missing Annunciation miniature, since the fleece that remained dry when all was wet, and wet when all was dry, was a type for the virginity of the Virgin, intact through conception and childbirth. The Virgo lactans with kneeling monks that replaces the customary Flight into Egypt at the beginning of vespers is an equally unusual choice. The haloed abbot appears to be a Benedictine, whereas the monastic saint usually honoured with such a vision is St Bernard, a Cistercian, who was sprayed with the Virgin's milk. It is, however, possible that the miniature is a mistaken representation of St Bernard's vision, since it is said to have occurred as he prayed Monstra te esse matrem, Show yourself a mother, from the Ave maris stella, which he was popularly believed to have written. The Ave maris stella, Hail star of the sea, is the hymn at vespers, f.92v.
The Ango Master sometimes drew upon the compositions of Albrecht Dürer, whose prints were widely disseminated. In the present manuscript, for example, the Betrayal with the dynamic figures of St Peter and Malchus overlapping Judas and Christ is directly dependent on the same subject in Dürer's Engraved Passion, dated 1508.
Although the manuscript was produced in Rouen the heraldic decoration shows that it was made for a member of the Orléanais family Gauvignon. The liturgical use of another Book of Hours by the Ango Master (New York, PML, M.61), which includes an Easter table beginning with the year 1525, indicates that it too was destined for an owner in Orléans.
The subjects of the full-page miniatures are as follows:
f.1v armorial miniature, with the arms of the Gauvignon supported by two labourers
f.14v St John on Patmos
f.29v Lamentation at the foot of the Cross
f.53v Gideon with the fleece
f.68v Nativity with Joseph and Mary in adoration of the Christchild
f.73v Adoration of the shepherd and shepherdesses
f.78v Adoration of the Magi
f.83v Presentation in the Temple
f.88v Virgo lactans with kneeling monks
f.111v David with the prophet Nathan