Lot 20: Book of Hours, 100ff., 13 large miniatures, Southern Flanders, second half of 15th century.

Forum Auctions

November 15, 2016
London, United Kingdom

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Description: Book of Hours, use of Rome. Illuminated manuscript on vellum, [Southern Flanders (Bruges?), second half of the fifteenth century]. 160 x 115 mm. II + 98 + I leaves, unfoliated, thirteen quires, collation: 12, 28, 36, 48, 58, 68, 78, 88, 96, 108, 118, 128, 132, last two leaves mounted on a parchment strip, blank: fol. 72, text block: 92 x 62 mm., single column, 18 lines, first below top line, ruled in purple ink, with full-length horizontal and vertical bounding lines, text written in dark brown ink and red in a gothic book-hand, Calendar with names of months and major feasts in red ink, decorated with thirteen large arch-topped miniatures with full elaborate borders of semi-naturalistic acanthus leaves and flowers in colours and gold, each incorporating a five-line illuminated initial with acanthus leaves on liquid gold, with text, one five-line illuminated initial on fol. 28r in liquid gold on a blue and red ground, numerous one or two-line initials painted in gold on grounds of red and blue (occasionally with extension), one-line penwork initials throughout, line endings in red and blue, borders of the miniatures lightly cropped, the lower right corners of them slightly rubbed from use, short tear on fols. 14 and 17, otherwise in excellent condition, twentieth-century olive morocco, covers with three gilt fillets, at the centre small fleuron composed of different gilt tools, spine with five raised bands emphasised by dotted fillets, compartments gilt-tooled, title lettered in gilt, inner gilt dentelles, housed in a modern pale blue cloth clamshell case, with title in gilt lettering on morocco label (spine detached). ⁂ This luxurious Book of Hours - the popular medieval prayer book designed for laymen - was produced in Southern Flanders, possibly in Bruges, the main centre of Flemish book production in the second half of the fifteenth century. The Calendar contains mention of local feast days and saints especially venerated in this area, such as St Aldegardis Virginis and the bishop Willebrordius, providing further valuable clues, along the ownership inscription in a Flemish hand on the verso of the last leaf, as to its likely place of production. The manuscript is decorated with thirteen full-page miniatures, inserted at the relevant sections of the Hours, mostly accompanying the Hours of the Virgin and based on well-established iconographic models. The decoration, the intense and distinctive colouring, the clear images, the naturalistic taste, and the floral motifs in the borders recall the style of the atelier of the famous illuminator Willem Vrelant, born in Utrecht but active in Bruges from 1454 to 1482. He worked for the Burgundian Court, and was a successful and prolific artist. Vrelant's style was imitated by other illuminators "that it remains difficult to draw a firm line between the œuvre of the Master and that of his followers" (G. Dogaer, Flemish Miniature Painting, p. 99). Text: fols. 1r-12v, Calendar fols. 13r-15v, Hours of the Holy Spirit fols. 16r-18v, Hours of the Cross fols. 19r-27v, Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary fols. 28r-32v, The prayer to the Virgin 'O intemerata' fols. 33r-71v, Hours of the Virgin fols. 73r-93v, The Penitential Psalms and Litany followed by petitions fols. 93r-98v, Office of the Dead Illustration: The subjects of the full-page miniatures are: fol. 13r: Pentecost fol. 16r: Crucifixion fol. 19r: Virgin and Child fol. 33r: Annunciation fol. 41v: Visitation fol. 50v: Nativity fol. 54r: Annunciation to the Shepherds fol. 57r: Adoration of the Magi fol. 60r: Presentation in the Temple fol. 63r: Massacre of the Innocents fol. 68r: Flight into Egypt fol. 73r: Ascension fol. 93r: Funeral Service Provenance: Contemporary ownership inscription on verso of final leaf, in a Flemish hand, 'desen boeck hoert too van [?] en gheest haer weder om gote', possibly revealing a female ownership; Albert Ehrman (1890-1969), British book collector; his monogram stamp on rear pastedown, with the notice 'Ms I. 633'; booklabel of the Broxbourne Library on front pastedown); Menno Hertzberger, bookseller in Amsterdam (label on front pastedown); Robert Walsingham Martin (1871-1961; bookplate pasted on a vellum strip between front pastedown and flyleaf); by descent to his daughter Marie Martin; sold in the 1980s to John F. Fleming; sold 1986 to Robert and Joan Cremin. Literature: G. Dogaer, Flemish Miniature Painting in the 15th and 16th Centuries, Amsterdam, 1987; Th. Kren - S. McKendrick (eds.), Illuminating the Renaissance. The Triumph of Flemish Manuscript Painting in Europe, Los Angeles 2003; T. Delcourt - B. Bousmanne (eds.), Miniatures flamandes 1404-1482, Paris-Brussels 2011.
Notes: Category: Western And Medieval Manuscripts
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