VIGIL OF THE DEAD, full-page miniature and TWO LARGE INITIALS on leaves from a BOOK OF HOURS, illuminated manuscript on vellum
[Bruges, c.1470-80]153 x 108mm. Full-page arch-topped miniature showing the Office of the Dead within a chapel, the draped coffin before the altar with canopy above, two tonsured priests seated in choirstalls to the left, four bowed and hooded mourners to the right, with frame of burnished gold and full-page border of blue and liquid gold acanthus and sprays of naturalistic flowers and fruit, interspersed with hairline tendrils and burnished gold terminals; two large initials of pale pink and blue with white decoration on grounds of burnished gold with scrolling foliate infills with flowerhead terminals in blue, green, pink and red, with similar full-page borders; 18 lines written in brown ink in a lettre bâtarde, between two verticals and 19 horizontals ruled in brown, justification: 88 x 62mm, rubrics in red, one-line initials of burnished gold with black penwork flourishing, and of blue with red flourishing, two-line initials with staves of burnished gold on grounds of blue or pink with infills in the contrasting colour (a tiny unobtrusive hole to border of leaf with miniature, and some small losses of burnished gold).
These fine illuminated leaves, from the same Book of Hours, opened the canonical hours of sext and compline from the Office of the Virgin, with the miniature (on the verso of the leaf) marking the beginning of vespers in the Office of the Dead. The style of illumination suggests that the manuscript was made in Bruges, displaying the linear style, layout and border design familiar from the work of Willem Vrelant, active in Bruges from 1454 until 1481; the scene in the miniature is set in a carefully constructed interior, its sharp perspective countered by details found in the rendering of panelling and the altar hangings. The finely painted borders include delicate and highly naturalistic representations of flowers such as columbines, cornflowers and daisies. (3)