BOOK OF HOURS, use of Rouen, in Latin and French, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
185 x 125mm. i + 120 + i leaves: 112, 29(of 8+i), 33(?of 4, iv cancelled blank), 4-88, 92, 10-158, 166, COMPLETE, 16 lines written in brown ink in a gothic bookhand between two verticals and 17 horizontals ruled in red, vertical pricking on some leaves, rubrics in red, text capitals touched yellow, one-line initials with staves of burnished gold on grounds of blue or pink patterned with white and infills of the contrasting colour, similar line endings, two- to four-line initials with blue staves patterned with white on burnished gold grounds with foliate infills of orange, blue and white, a SIDE BORDER TO EVERY PAGE of acanthus and flower sprays in blue, green, pink, red and liquid gold, some on divided grounds of liquid gold, interspersed with gold disks on hairline tendrils, two similar full-page borders accompanying large initials, TWENTY-FOUR SMALL CALENDAR MINIATURES in side borders, FIFTEEN LARGE ARCH-TOPPED MINIATURES FRAMED WITH GOLD AND ACCOMPANIED BY FULL-PAGE BORDERS enlivened by birds and grotesques, five with marginal roundels (slight staining to some margins, a few borders slightly smudged, small pigment losses to several miniatures). Early 16th-century French brown calf over wooden boards, stamped in blind with panels of, on the upper cover, St Barbara between inscription sancta barbara/ora pro nobis and twining foliage and, on the lower cover, St John the Baptist between Ung dieu sancte johannes ung roy une foy/ora pro nobis une loy, spine in seven compartments, attachments for two clasps (few wormholes, rubbed, joints restored). Modern red morocco box gilt.
1. The numerous Rouen saints in the Calendar and Litany and the Rouen Use of the Offices of the Virgin and of the Dead show that the manuscript was written for the Rouen market; prayers are in the masculine. It was illuminated in styles localised in Rouen for the lady kneeling at the Lamentation, f.114.
2. Madame Lespect, rue Pigeon, Rouen: 16th-century inscription promising a reward to anyone who returns her book, signed by Nicolas Le Page, f.13. The binding may have been executed in Rouen. The panels belong to a Parisian group c.1500-1510 of St Barbara, as here, and five similar versions of St John the Baptist -- the panel here is too worn to be identified certainly. Since some of the group are on English bindings of the first quarter of the 16th century, the stamps may have reached England via Rouen, which was a major supplier of books for the English market (see P. Needham, Twelve Centuries of Bookbindings, 1979, no 36; J. Oldham, Blind Panels of English Binders, 1958, ST2 and ST28-31).
3. Jacques-Annibal Claret de Fleurieu de la Tourette (1692-1776) of Lyons, Président en la Cour des Monnaies de Lyon, and man of letters: engraved armorial bookplate dated 1719 inside upper cover.
4. Dionysii Vasilevich: modern inscription in Cyrillic script on first added leaf.
Calendar ff.1-12; ruled blank with added prayer f.13; Gospel extracts ff.14-18v; Obsecro te ff.18v-21; O intemerata ff.21-24; Office of the Virgin, use of Rouen ff.25-66: matins f.25, lauds f.34, prime f.45, terce f.49v, sext f.52v, none f.55, vespers f.57v, compline f.f.62v; Penitential Psalms and Litany ff.67-82v; Hours of the Cross ff.83-85v; Hours of the Holy Spirit ff.86-88v; Office of the Dead, use of Rouen ff.89-113v; Fifteen Joys of the Virgin ff.114-117v; Seven Requests ff.118-120v.
The illumination is typical of the richly embellished Books of Hours produced in Rouen in the last quarter of the sixteenth century by painters who developed the patterns established by the Master of the Echevinage of Rouen. The Master, also known as the Master of the Geneva Latini, was widely imitated in his linear compositions and delight in surface pattern, exemplified by the textiles detailed in gold. Similar textiles in these miniatures provide a rich setting for the expressive, lanky figures with their emphatic gestures. The present Hours can be associated with the group of Rouen manuscripts discussed by Rowan Watson in The Playfair Hours, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1984.
The decorative programme is exceptionally rich, presumably to satisfy the requirements of the lady kneeling at the Lamentation. The labours of the months were often the only decoration in Rouen calendars but here they are joined by scenes on the versos which frequently allude to the zodiac sign which would be the expected subject: the Baptism of Christ for the water of Aquarius, Jonah's whale for Pisces, the ram to be sacrificed in place of Isaac for Aries, the creation of Eve from Adam for Gemini, Daniel in the lions' den for Leo, moneychangers for Libra. The Assumption of the Virgin for Virgo also appropriately illustrates that feast on 15 August, whereas St Katherine, beside her feast in November, cannot be associated obviously with Sagittarius and might be the name saint of the first owner. The iconographic richness continues in the border roundels with Old and New Testament parallels or extensions of the narrative in the main miniature.
This is a handsome example of the manuscripts that made Rouen a leading centre of book production in the later fifteenth century.
The subjects of the large miniatures are as follows:
f.14 The four Evangelists with their symbols
f.25 Annunciation, with border roundels of the Temptation of Adam and Eve, the Meeting of the Virgin's parents at the Golden Gate and the Marriage of the Virgin
f.45 Nativity with border roundels of three shepherds making music and the Tiburtine Sibyl showing a vision of the Virgin and Child to the Emperor Augustus
f.49v Annunciation to the Shepherds
f.52v Adoration of the Magi
f.55 Presentation in the Temple
f.57v Flight into Egypt
f.62v Coronation of the Virgin
f.67 David upbraided by the prophet Nathan, who points to his sword to represent his warning 'the sword shall never depart from thy house', in retribution for the death of Uriah; border roundels of David and Goliath and the Last Judgement
f.89 The Three Living meet the Three Dead with border roundels of the Harrowing of Hell and a burial scene
f.114 The Lamentation with the three Maries and St John the Evangelist surrounding the Virgin with the dead Christ on her lap, a lady kneels with the scroll O mater dei memento mei; a border roundel of the Trinity with the Dove hovering above Christ on the Cross, held by the Father
f.118 The Trinity with the Dove between the enthroned Father and Son, an angel playing the harp at their feet
The subjects of the calendar miniatures are as follows:
Janus feasting f.1, Baptism of Christ f.1v, man warming himself f.2, Jonah and the whale f.2v, pruning vines f.3, Sacrifice of Isaac f.3v, lover helping his lady to make a wreath in a garden f.4, Noah's ark f.4v, man and woman on horseback f.5, Creation of Eve f.5v, haymaking with scythes f.6, Job on the dungheap f.6v, reaping with sickles f.7, Daniel in the lions' den f.7v, threshing f.8, Assumption of the Virgin f.8v, treading grapes f.9, money changers f.9v, sowing f.10, Pharaoh and his army swallowed by the Red Sea (painted in red) f.10v, feeding pigs f.11, St Catherine f.11v, slaughtering a pig f.12, baking f.12v.