BOOK OF HOURS, use of Troyes, in Latin and French, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
227 x 155mm. 159 leaves: 1-26, 34(of 8, lacking i, ii, vii & viii), 47(of 8, lacking i), 5-78, 86(of 8, lacking iv & v), 98(of 10, lacking v & vi), 106(of 8, lacking i & viii), 116(of 8, lacking i & viii), 128, 137(of 8, lacking i), 14-178, 184, 196(of 8, lacking i & viii), 206(of 8, lacking iv & v), 217(of 8, lacking iii), 22-238, 15 lines written in black ink in a gothic bookhand between two verticals and 16 horizontals ruled in red, rubrics in red, one-line initials of burnished gold against grounds and infills of red and blue with white decoration, line-endings of the same colours, two- to four-line initials of pink or blue against burnished gold with trefoil sprays in the infill, ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY PAGES WITH THREE-SIDED BORDERS made up of sprays of acanthus and naturalistic flowers and golden trefoils on hairline tendrils with a bird, animal or insect at the side, EIGHT LARGE MINIATURES with full-page borders, an HISTORIATED INITIAL (smudging to borders of final four leaves, elsewhere occasional very slight offsetting or smudging to ink-outlining of border forms, likely lacking at least 9 miniatures). 19th-century panelled brown russia gilt, upper and lower covers inset with late 16th-century panels with arabesque centre- and corner-pieces, brass catch and clasp (rebacked). Cloth box.
AN EXQUISITE MANUSCRIPT BY THE MASTER OF THE TROYES MISSAL
The liturgical use, style of illumination and the presence in gold in the Calendar of the feast of St Mastidia (7 May) indicate that this Hours was made in Troyes and for use in that diocese.
The manuscript seems likely to have reached England by the end of the 16th century when 'swithen' was added to the Calendar (15 July) in an informal cursive hand.
Kendall family: a signature Frederick Kendall on the second paper flyleaf, a stamp J.KENDALL on the vellum flyleaf and an armorial bookplate inside the upper cover with the initials A.K.
Leo S. Bing Esq.: purchased from Frank T. Sabin of New Bond Street, London in 1927; by descent to the present owner.
Calendar ff.1-12v; Gospel Extracts of Luke and Matthew ff.13-16v; Office of the Virgin, use of Troyes ff.17-61v: matins, lacking opening f.17, lauds f.26v, prime f.36v, terce f.42, sext f.46, none, lacking opening f.50, vespers f.53, compline, lacking opening f.58; Hours of the Cross, lacking opening ff.62-64v; Hours of the Holy Spirit, lacking end ff.65-67v; Seven Penitiential Psalms, lacking opening and verses 4-14 of Psalm 101 ff.68-77; Litany ff.77-81v; Office of the Dead, use of Troyes, lacking opening ff.82-123v; blank f.124r&v; Prayers to God the Father, lacking opening ff.125-127v; Quinze Joyes de Nostre Dame, lacking 6th and 15th Joys ff.128-133v; Prayers to the Virgin, lacking openings of Obsecro te and O Intemerata ff.134-142v; Suffrages to the Trinity, Christ's crown, Angels, Sts John the Evangelist, John the Baptist, Peter and Paul, Andrew, James, Stephen, Lawrence, Christopher, Sebastian, Nicholas, Maur, Anthony, Claude, Mary Magdalene, Catherine, Margaret, Agatha, Apollonia, Helena, Mastidia ff.142v-159v.
This is an exceptionally fine work by the Master of the Troyes Missal, named after a manuscript in Paris (BnF, Lat. 865A) written by the scribe Jean Coquet around 1460. The Missal represents the artist's work at its most accomplished, and its illumination is in every way comparable with the miniatures and bird-inhabited borders of the present manuscript. The elegantly attenuated figures with planar faces are set in richly decorated interiors or romantically exotic landscapes, where castles cling to fantastic rocky outcrops and distant details merge in a blue haze. The scenes are full of anecdotal incident, as at the Nativity where Joseph blows to cool the baby's pap, which reveal the Master's debt to the patterns of the Bedford Master and his successors. For the Master and his work, see F. Avril and N. Reynaud, Les manuscrits à peintures en France 1440-1520, 1993, pp.180-184.
Troyes dominated book production in Champagne and the Master of the Troyes Missal was much in demand. As a result many of his Books of Hours are of somewhat summary execution. But this is far from the case with the present manuscript: it is a luxurious volume with an exquisite border on almost every leaf and, originally, had an unusually high number of miniatures, of which eight survive. This must have been a prestigious commission on which the Master lavished his considerable talents and richly glowing materials.
The subjects of the miniatures are as follows: St Luke writing, his ox at his feet, f.13; St Matthew copying his Gospel from a codex held by his angel f.15; Visitation (historiated initial) f.26v; Nativity, with the Virgin adoring the Christ Child and Joseph preparing food, f.36v; Annunciation to the shepherds, with a shepherd and shepherdess accompanying the angels' hymn on bagpipes and viol, f.42; Adoration of the Magi f.46; Flight into Egypt f.53; Pentecost f.65; Virgin and Child with two angels, one playing the harp, the other offering a dish to the Christ Child, f.128.