PROCESSIONAL, for the use of the Dominican sisters of St Louis, Poissy, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
164 x 107mm. ii + 141 + ii leaves: 19(i a singleton), 28, 39(ix a singleton), 4-108, 119(vii a singleton), 128, 136, 14-178, 184, apparently COMPLETE, 21 lines written in dark brown ink in a gothic bookhand between two verticals and 22 horizontals ruled in red or seven lines similarly written below seven four-line staves ruled in red with music of a square notation, justification: 101 x 59mm, rubrics in red, text capitals touched yellow, numerous large foliate initials in pink, blue and green on grounds of burnished gold leading to bar borders in blue and burnished gold in inner margin, nine pages with full bars of burnished gold and borders to the outer edges of curling vine stems in blue, red, green and burnished gold, ONE LARGE ARCH-TOPPED MINIATURE with three-sided bar and border, FOUR FULL-PAGE MINIATURES IN RENAISSANCE ARCHITECTURAL FRAMES in liquid gold and colours (slight wear to some margins including the border on f.2). Brown tooled morocco by Chambolle-Duru, gilt edges (slight scuffing).
1. A Dominican nun at the royal foundation of St Louis, Poissy, with the dimidiated arms azure, three mullets or two and one; gules, a stag argent. The convent's books seem to have left with the nuns, who were expelled in 1792, and dispersed piecemeal.
2. Robert Hoe (1839-1909): armorial bookplate inside front cover; his sale, Anderson Auction Company, New York, 1 May 1911, lot 2178.
3. Thomas Jefferson Coolidge Junior (1863-1912) of Manchester, Mass. or his son of the same name (1893-1959): armorial bookplate inside front cover.
4. Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Mass.
Processional for the Dominican Convent of St Louis at Poissy, opening with the blessing of candles for the Purification of the Virgin and ending with the stripping of the altars on Maundy Thursday, where twenty altars in the conventual church are listed, including dedications to St Louis and St Dominic, ff.1-128; ruled blanks ff.128v-129v; prayers to be said at mass ff.130-139v; ruled blanks ff.140-141v.
At least twenty-four processionals are known from Poissy, the convent founded by Philip the Fair for noble ladies in honour of the canonisation of his grandfather, Louis IX, in 1298. As its name implies, the processional was used for the chants and prayers which accompanied processions and it was, therefore, convenient for each sister to have her own easily portable book. Several of these bear the arms of the sister who commissioned the volume and who would have chosen the additional prayers, as here, to give a more personal content (see M. Huglo, 'Les processionaux de Poissy' pp.339-346 in Rituels: mélanges offert à Pierre Marie Gy, P. de Clerck and E. Palazzo eds, 1990).
Poissy is just outside Paris, and the nuns turned to the city for their illuminated books. The miniatures are typical of Parisian production in the early 16th century, with a strong feeling for pattern, executed in clear bright colours enhanced by gold. In the full-page miniatures, features and contours are defined by fine black lines to emphasise the expressive faces and gestures of the figures. The classicising Renaissance framing contrasts with the archaicising gold bars and borders of thick vine stems on the facing rectos. Although the same border hand worked on the concluding section of prayers, the miniature of the Mass of St Gregory is executed in a more painterly technique, perhaps influenced by Jean Pichore, documented in Paris from 1502-1520.
The borders, probably derived from earlier books in the convent's possession to evoke its exalted origins and history, are typical of manuscripts for Poissy at this date, when the nuns were cutting up earlier manuscripts to add initials and borders to their new books. It is, however, more usual for the Processionals to be illustrated with historiated initials or small miniatures, as in the contemporary volume now in the Free Library of Philadelphia, ms Lewis E 7 (see Leaves of Gold, Manuscript Illumination from Philadelphia Collections, J. Tanis ed., 2002, pp.134-6). By commissioning five miniatures, the noble owner of the present Processional obtained an especially lavish volume, worthy of the prestigious convent to which she belonged.
The full-page miniatures are as follows: Presentation in the Temple f.1; Arrest of Christ f.26v; Last Supper f.88v; three scenes of the life and martyrdom of St Catherine f.118v.
The three-quarter-page miniature is the Mass of St Gregory f.130.