BOOK OF HOURS, use of Sarum, in Latin, French and Middle English, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
192 x 140mm. 260 leaves: 112, 2-148, 157(lacking iii), 16-328, 331, the lacking leaf probably with a miniature, 16 lines written in a gothic bookhand between two verticals and 17 horizontals ruled in red, justification: 95 x 61mm, rubrics in red, one-line initials with staves of burnished gold against grounds alternately blue or pink with white decoration and with infills of the other colour, line-endings of the same colours, two- and three-line initials with staves of pink or blue against grounds of burnished gold with an ivy-leaf spray in the infills, PANEL BORDERS on every page with a two-line initial made up of hairline tendrils with golden trefoils and flowerhead terminals FIFTEEN LARGE ARCH-TOPPED MINIATURES SURROUNDED BY FULL-PAGE BORDERS some of flowers and sprays of acanthus, interspersed with gold disks, others with gold baguettes with red and blue flowers on three sides surrounded with sprays of golden trefoils, fronds of acanthus at the corners (water-staining to top margins throughout, causing cockling from f.87 and small corrosion losses from the blank margin of 15 leaves, slight rubbing or smudging to some borders and to the tops of two miniatures, the faces of Joseph and Elisabeth slightly rubbed on f.30v, and two miniatures, ff.116v and 122v, with the face of the Virgin smudged or worn). Late 15th-century ?English blindstamped, panelled goatskin, the covers with double fillets containing four impressions of a panel with a foliate border around three vertical registers, a central ihesus maria flanked by scrolling foliage containing birds and a monkey (upper cover detached, spine defective, small losses of leather at joints and clasps, clasps and pins lacking). English red morocco box.
AN ENTRANCING BOOK OF HOURS WITH SOME OF THE FINEST MINIATURES EVER PAINTED BY THE MASTER OF THE MUNICH GOLDEN LEGEND
1. The texts and style of illumination show that the book was made in Rouen for an English patron; prayers are in the masculine. The initial on f.21 encloses an empty shield. The Offices of the Virgin and of the Dead are for the use of Sarum and the Calendar includes English saints, with Dunstan 18 May and Edmund 16 November in red, as well as saints particular to Rouen, such as Romain in red, 25 October, with octave. Some confusions have occurred with the English saints: Oswald King, instead of Archbishop, 28 February; Richard Bishop, in red, 20 June, is probably the translation, properly 16 June, of Richard of Chichester, whose feast is in red on 3 April, or, less probably, a celebration of Richard Scrope, Archbishop of York, who was executed 18 June 1405 and venerated as a saint. Some red feasts were omitted and then inserted in an informal hand: Peter and Paul 29 June, Paul 30 June, and the Assumption of the Virgin 15 August. The Litany invokes English and Norman saints.
2. Shortly after the book's completion further prayers were added and illuminated in England, ff.236-259. The prayers are in the feminine for someone anxious about the plague and with a particular devotion to St Christopher: feminine endings were added to the prayer to St Christopher, f.80v. The prayers in French suggest that the lady was either French, married to an Englishman, or one of the decreasing number of English who regarded French as a second vernacular, perhaps encouraged by living in Normandy. St Romain is among the saints named in the prayer opening on f.251. A slightly later hand used the remainder of f.259 and f.260 for a prayer to the angels.
3. John Burgwin: inscribed in a 17th-century hand on f.260. The surname was found in Hereford, Worcester and the Welsh Marches but the owner may have lived elsewhere. In 1631 a John Burgwin was married at St Clement Dane's London.
4. Iacobus omoydo (?): inscribed on f.82v.
5. N. Milward: inscribed on f.83.
6. Pencilled annotations in margins in French.
7. Sold Quaritch, Catalogue of Works of Standard English Literature, London, 1907, appendix no.112.
8. Henri Vever.
Calendar ff.1-12; Gospel Extracts ff.13-20; Office of the Virgin, use of Sarum ff.21-79v: matins f.21, lauds f.30v, followed by Suffrages to Holy Spirit, Trinity, Holy Cross, Sts Michael, John the Baptist, Peter and Paul, Andrew, Stephen, Lawrence, Thomas, Nicholas, Mary Magdalene, Catherine, Margaret, All Saints, Peace ff.40-46, prime f.47, terce f.53, sext f.58, vespers f.66v, compline f.73, with Hours of the Cross following after the Hours of the Virgin from matins f.46 to compline f.76v; Suffrage to St Christopher ff.80-81v; 82-84 blanks; Seven Penitential Psalms ff.85-109v; Sequence of prayers and devotions to the Virgin ff.110-129, opening Salve virgo virginum stella matutina f.110, O Intemerata, lacking end f.116v, Obsecro te lacking beginning f.119, Ave mundi spes maria f.122v; Sequence of devotions ff.129v-142, opening with prayers to the five wounds; Office of the Dead, use of Sarum ff.142v-216; Psalter of St Jerome ff.216-234v; Verses of St Bernard ff.234v-235v; added devotional sequence including the Joys of the Virgin and a rhymed prayer to St Christopher in French ff.236-252; rubric in Middle English on computing the date of Easter ff.252v-253; prayers ff.253-260, opening Missus est gabriel angelus ad mariam virginem.
The delightful miniatures of this manuscript are by the Master of the Munich Golden Legend: they are as fine as any he ever painted and show him working at an exceptional level of refinement and invention. The Master is named after a copy of the French translation of the Legenda aurea produced in Paris in the 1420s (Bayerische Staatsbib., cod.gall.3). His style is marked by a delight in surface pattern, not only in textiles, which are rendered with particular subtlety in this Hours, but in the interlocking shapes of figures and settings, often emphasised by dark outlines. Unusually among French illuminators at this date, the Master was willing to use black draperies to underscore his strong colours, richly patterned with gold. While much of his work relies on line to detail and model with hatching and cross-hatching, these miniatures show considerable painterly finesse in the shading of flesh and draperies, with the tonal mastery most evident in the monochrome angels below the Virgin clothed in the Sun. A similar approach is seen in 'one of the most important and beautiful Books of Hours in the Walters Art Gallery' (Ms W.288, R. Wieck, The Book of Hours in Medieval Art and Life, 1988, p.11, pls.1-12) but the earlier Walters manuscript does not equal the present Hours in the complexity of compositions, where additional figures are frequently introduced, and in the quantity and quality of detail. Compare, for instance the miniatures of King David, where in the Vever Hours two tiny bent figures carry sacks of grain from a watermill, minutely defined in liquid gold. David's harp even has a key for tightening the strings. This richly detailed painting owes much to the Bedford Master, with whom the Munich Golden Legend Master often collaborated to the benefit of his stock of designs.
The Munich Golden Legend Master was among the many illuminators who left Paris during the difficult years of English rule. At least four Books of Hours for Norman uses have miniatures in the style of the Munich Golden Legend, suggesting that the Master settled in Rouen, the centre of English military and civil administration in France from 1418 to 1449. His stay in Normandy seems to have been comparatively short, although very influential on the leading Rouen illuminator of the next generation, the Master of the Geneva Latini (see lot 35 ). The disruptions of war were most evident at the highest levels of patronage, encouraging more economical, linear styles, as generally favoured by the Master of the Munich Golden Legend and shared in Rouen by the Fastolf and Talbot Masters, both named from work for English patrons.
The present Hours, previously known only from the Quaritch 1907 catalogue, is apparently the only liturgical book for the use of Sarum illuminated by the Master. He did, however, adapt an existing Book of Hours for a member of the family of Ralph Neville, earl of Westmoreland (Paris, BnF lat.1158). In the remarkable full-page miniatures of the Nevilles at prayer, the heads of the male Nevilles are underpainted in green, as is the head of David in the present manuscript, showing the Master at his most anxious to supplement line by modelling in colour and tone. Special commissions, like the Neville miniatures and this Hours, were likely to stimulate an exceptional response (see C. Reynolds, 'English patrons and French artists in fifteenth-century Normandy', pp.299-313 in England and Normandy in the Middle Ages, D. Bates and A. Curry eds. 1994).
The individuality of this Book of Hours is evident in the range of texts and in the illumination. Although the Crucifixion is a variant of the Master's standard composition, it does not appear in the usual place, at the Hours of the Cross, but before prayers devoted to the Wounds of Christ and the Seven Last Words, particularly favoured in English Hours. Both texts and pictures show a devotion to Joseph, whose status as a saint was only being established in France at this time. At the Nativity he achieves a most unusual visual parity with the Virgin, as they kneel either side of the Christ Child. In England, there was a stronger tradition of Joseph's sanctity and it is likely that the English patron of these Hours gave careful instructions to the Master of the Munich Golden Legend which encouraged him to produce one of his most finely crafted books.
The lady who commissioned the additional devotions respected the book's format in layout and illumination. The borders, however, have typically English feathery ink stems linking the painted motifs imitated from the earlier French decoration.
The subjects of the miniatures are as follows:
f.47 Nativity with the Virgin and Joseph adoring the Christ Child
f.53 Annunciation to the shepherds
f.58 Adoration of the Magi
f.62 Presentation in the Temple
f.66v Flight into Egypt
f.73 Coronation of the Virgin
f.80 St Christopher with the Christ Child
f.85 David in penitence
f.110 Virgin and Child on a crescent moon
f.116v Holy Family
f.122v Virgin and Child in a rose bower
f.142v Praying the Office of the Dead