THE HOURS OF PERICONIO NASELLI, use of Rome, in Latin with some French rubrics, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM, [Paris, mid- 15th century]
130 x 95 mm. ii (paper) + ii (vellum) + 230 +ii (paper) leaves, COMPLETE. FULL-PAGE PORTRAIT MINIATURE OF PERICONIO NASELLI, WITH HIS INITIALS AND ARMS, kneeling to face the Annunciation miniature, TWENTY-TWO LARGE ARCH-TOPPED MINIATURES, each accompanied by a full border, FOUR FOUR-LINE HISTORIATED INITIALS EACH ON A BURNISHED GOLD GROUND (some wear, thumbing, and staining throughout, some offsetting of miniatures onto facing pages, painted borders usually cropped). English early 19th-century straight-grained dark green morocco, profusely gilt (some scuffing, minor losses to lower cover).
1) PERICONIO II NASELLI (d. 1470): with his full-page portrait and initials ‘P N’ and arms (f.30v, 31): azure a lion issuant or, above three besants of the same. The Naselli were an important and powerful Sicilian family with strong links to the Spanish Aragonese crown. By the 1450s Don Periconio II Naselli had become Alfonso V of Aragon’s ‘itinerant ambassador’, and it is possible that this Hours was produced for him while on a diplomatic visit to France. Although on an inserted leaf, his portrait is by the artist responsible for illumination in the rest of the manuscript and so it is likely that Naselli was the first, if not necessarily the intended, owner of the book. 2) ALEXANDER DAVISON (1750-1829), government contractor and close friend and confidant of Lord Nelson: bound for him, with his crest (a kestrel, wings expanded, holding an ear of wheat in its beak, standing on an earl’s coronet) stamped on the spine and on both covers in the centre and corners.
Calendar ff.1-12v; Gospel extracts, each except Luke’s followed by a prayer, ff.13-20; prayers Obsecro te and O intemerata using masculine forms ff.20v-29; Hours of the Virgin, use of Rome, ff.31-111v; Hours for each day of the week ff.112-138v; Masses of the Virgin and other mass prayers ff.138v-150v; The Seven Penitential Psalms ff.151-164v; Litany, petitions, and collects, ff.164v-175v; Office of the Dead, use of Rome, ff.176-218v; Suffrages ff.219-228v.
Despite the unexpected alternation of male and female saints, the suffrages are in their original sequence, as shown by the rubric for Catherine following Christopher, and the rubric for Anthony following Lucy.
The miniatures in the present Hours are a fine example of the work that made the Master of Jean Rolin II one of the more influential and innovative artists working in Paris in the mid-15th century. Named after his work on the Missal of Jean Rolin II in Lyons (Bib. municipale, Ms 517; see. F. Avril and N. Reynaud, Les manuscrits à peintures en France, 1993, pp.38-45), the anonymous master proved instrumental in the artistic formation of painters like Maître François, who inherited his compositional and iconographical patterns, as well as his abrupt modelling and detailing, and the Master of Jacques de Besançon. A close collaborator of the Dunois Master, his figures are precisely detailed, their faces are doll-like and their mood is conveyed by accentuated gesture and posture. An interesting parallel can be drawn with another Book of Hours of the same period by the Master of Jean Rolin: Morgan M. 1027 (Plummer, The Last Flowering, 1982, no 83) - it too was made for an Italian patron, identified by F. Avril as Benoît Damien (Benedetto Damiani), a citizen of Asti living in France and in the service of Charles d'Orléans.
In addition to the full-page portrait miniature (f.30v), the subjects of the large miniatures are: St John on Patmos f.13, The Annunciation f.31, The Visitation f.43, The Nativity f.56v, The Annunciation to the shepherds f.62, The Adoration of the Magi f.67v, The Presentation in the temple f.72v, The Fight into Egypt f.77v, The Coronation of the Virgin f.86v, The Trinity f.112, King David in penitence f.151, Burial Mass f.176, St Peter f.219, St Julian f.220, St Sebastian f.221, St Christopher f.222v, St Catherine f.224, St Margaret f.225, St Anthony f.226, St Nicholas f.227, St George f.228.
The historiated initials are on ff. 20v, 24v, 124 and 131.