4 June 2003
HARVESTING GRAPES, miniature from the Calendar of a Book of Hours, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[southern Netherlands, probably Bruges, c.1490]
105 x 75mm. Arch-topped miniature with three figures before a vine laden with grapes, one man tipping grapes into a basket carried on the back of another, a kneeling man to the right with his full basket on the ground beside him, the sign of the zodiac above, surrounded by a full-page strewn border with robins and flowerheads on a liquid gold ground, verso blank (outer margins reinforced on verso).
This attractive leaf comes from the Calendar of a Book of Hours, and illustrates one of the occupations appropriate for September together with the zodiac sign of Libra. Full-page Calendar miniatures are extrememly uncommon and are generally associated with entirely exceptional and lavish manuscripts such as the Duke of Berry's Très Riches Heures and the Grimani Breviary; they provide a rare portrait of contemporary secular, rustic life. Here the characterful faces and typical dress of the peasant harvesters are combined with details picked out in gold to produce both a realistic and decorative scene. The robust coarse-featured figures show the influence of the Master of the Dresden Prayerbook, himself a specialist in Calendar illustration. The illuminator is likely to have had direct contact with the Master's workshop: other leaves from this Hours recently offered for sale include two scenes for March and August (these rooms, 2 June 1999, lot 15) that are based on Calendar scenes in the manuscript after which the Master of the Dresden Prayerbook is named (Sächs. Landesbibliothek Ms A311).
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