BOOK OF HOURS, use of Chartres, in Latin and French, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
192 x 140mm. i + 192 + i leaves: 112, 2-68, 76, 89(ix a singleton), 96, 10-118, 1210, 138, 146, 1510, 16-238, 246(of 8, vii-viii cancelled blanks): COMPLETE, 17 lines written in brown ink in a lettre bâtarde between two verticals and 18 horizontals ruled in red, justification: 95 x 60mm, rubrics in red, one-line initials of liquid gold on grounds of red or blue with liquid gold decoration, two- and three-line initials with staves of blue or pink monochrome foliage against grey on grounds of liquid gold, every page with a panel border of one of two types, either of sprays of naturalistic fruit and flowers and blue and gold acanthus, sometimes on divided grounds of liquid gold, some including animals or grotesques, or banderoles or branches with text or foliage in colours or liquid gold against grounds of solid colour, SEVENTEEN FULL-PAGE OR LARGE ARCH-TOPPED MINIATURES accompanied by full-page borders of similar forms, THIRTY-THREE SMALL MINIATURES (small wormholes in margins of first three leaves, small pigment losses affecting the miniatures on folios 20v, 29 and 175, smudging to miniatures on folios 92v and 100, dampstaining to final five leaves). 17th-century French red morocco gilt (spine damaged at head, small stains to lower cover, slightly rubbed).
1. The feminine form of Obsecro te and the use of the Office of the Virgin show that the manuscript was written for a woman of Chartres. She is depicted, dressed in black, kneeling before the Virgin and Child in the large miniature on folio 20v and kneeling in a graveyard in the small miniature introducing the prayer for the dead on folio 196. The unusual inclusion of a ?rowan tree in the lower border of folio 180 and in the panel borders of both sides of folios 185 and 192 raises the possibility that this had some personal emblematic significance.
2. Various borders, parts of borders and three miniatures were overpainted at the end of the 15th century. It appears to have been in this campaign of painting that were added the coats of arms on folios 20v and 185, azure three birds argent beneath a crescent gules, and the shields with initials joined by a tasselled cord -- P, D and M on ff.21 and 54, P and M on ff.85 and 134 and G, M and I on ff.21v, 54v, 85v and 134v. It could be that the frequent inclusion of scallop shells in these overpainted borders has some emblematic significance.
3. A. Brölemann: his bookplate inside upper cover and no 68 in the catalogue of his collection
4. Commandant Paul-Louis Weiller: his bookplate on front endleaf and lot 19 in the 30 November 1998 sale of his books, Paris, Drouot
Calendar ff.1-12; Gospel extracts ff.13-20; Obsecro te ff.20v-24; O Intemerata ff.24v-28; Office of the Virgin, use of Chartres ff.29-99: matins f.29, lauds f.48, Hours of the Cross f.59, Hours of the Holy Spirit f.60v, prime f.62, terce f.69, none f.79, vespers f.84v, compline f.92v; Seven Penitential Psalms ff.100-118; Office of the Dead ff.120-169; Suffrages to the Trinity f.170 and to Sts Michael f.171, John the Baptist f.171v, Peter and Paul f.172, John the Evangelist f.172v, James and Philip f.173, James f.173v, Andrew f.174, Christopher f.175, Stephen f.176, Sebastian f.176v, Lawrence f.177, Blaise f.177v, Eutropius f.178, Adrian f.178v, Nicholas f.179, Martin f.179v, Antony f.180, Francis f.180v, Magdalene f.181v, Catherine f.182, Margaret f.182v, Barbara f.183, Apollonia f.184, All Saints 184v; Prayers for the Dead f.185, to Christ, opening O bone et dulcissime ihesu per tuam misericordiam f.186v; Seven verses of St Bernard f.190-192
The miniatures of this manuscript are among the most innovative works by the Master of Jacques de Besançon, the illuminator whose dated works range from 1485 to 1498. This illuminator not only took over the workshop and circle of patronage of his predecessor, Maître François, but also detailed aspects of his style, handling and approach to illustration. For example, the multi-storey miniatures, gothic architectural framing and pretty porcelain-complexioned women remained constant features of his illumination: the compositions of the earlier master are reused in manuscripts several decades later. In the present manuscript the dramatic miniatures of the Three Living and Three Dead (ff.111v and 112) are ultimately derived from Maître's François' treatment of the scene in the Wharnecliffe Hours (Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria, Ms Felton 1072/3). Their close stylistic relationship initially resulted in the oeuvre of both artists being regarded as belonging to one.
The miniatures of the present Hours are the familiar colourful and accomplished works but presented in an entirely uncharacteristic fashion. The figures are of larger scale relative to the area of the picture-field than is customary: it is as though every scene has been viewed from a closer standpoint. In many cases the feet or hems of the protagonists have been cut off and in the most dramatic instance of all, the Nativity, the Virgin and Joseph are shown in half-length, allowing greater focus on the Christ Child, and bringing the user of the book into a position more analagous to that of the adoring Holy Family. This move toward the half-length narrative -- so appropriate in a devotional book -- was an approach initially developed in panel painting in the southern Netherlands: it did not become common in French manuscripts until it was explored and adopted by Jean Bourdichon: S. Ringbom, Icon to Narrative, 1983.
The borders of the manuscript are the work of several illuminators. Many of them are very similar in type and delicacy to those of the Lectionary of Cardinal de Bourbon, attributed to the Master by Nicole Reynaud as a work of around 1480-82 (BnF Grec 55: F. Avril and N. Reynaud, Les Manuscrits à peintures en France, 1440-1520, 1993, pp.258-259). Some of these include rather racy marginal figures. On folios 176-178v there is a distinct change of hand, and the borders and miniatures appear much closer to Tours illumination and the painterly, softly modelled miniatures are close to Fouquet. Further borders with banderoles or thick-stemmed foliage against dark grounds of solid colour were painted over the original decoration by the illuminator of the three repainted miniatures.
The subjects of the large miniatures are as follows:
f.20v Virgin and Child with owner
f.29 Annunciation (repainted c.1500)
f.48 Visitation (repainted c.1500)
f.62 Nativity with the Virgin and Joseph adoring the Christ Child
f.69 Annunciation to the Shepherds
f.79 Presentation in the Temple
f.84v Flight into Egypt
f.92v Coronation of the Virgin
f.100 David in Penitence
f.119v Three Living
f.120 Three Dead
f.171 St Michael vanquishing Lucifer
f.175 St Christopher (repainted c.1500)
The small miniatures are John the Evangelist f.13, Luke f.14v, Matthew f.16, Mark f.17v, Mocking of Christ f.18v, Pietà f.24v, Choir singing f.129v, John the Baptist f.171v, Peter and Paul f.172, John the Evangelist f.172v, James and Philip f.173, James f.173v, Andrew f.174, Stephen f.176, Sebastian f.176v, Lawrence f.177, Blaise f.177v, Eutropius f.178, Adrian f.178v, Nicholas f.179, Martin f.179v, Antony f.180, Francis f.180v, Noli me tangere f.181v, Catherine f.182, Margaret f.182v, Barbara f.183, Apollonia f.184, All Saints f.184v, Female owner kneeling before cross in cemetary f.185, Mass of St Gregory (small border miniature) f.188v, St Bernard f.190