Superb miniatures by the Master of Jacques de Luxembourg
21 Book of hours for the use of ParisManuscript on vellum, illuminated by the Master of Jacques de Luxembourg.
France, Paris, c. 1460-70.
196 x 139 mm. 2+164+6 leaves (lacks 8 leaves with miniatures and 2 vellum flyleaves) plus two paper flyleaves at front and back: I12, II8-1, III8, IV8-1,V-X8, XI8-1, XII8-1, XIII8, XIV8-1, XV8-1, XVI-XIX8, XX8-1, XXI4-1, XXII4, catchwords throughout. Modern foliation in pencil in the right upper corner. – Written space 96 x 64 mm, single column, 15 and 17 lines in the calendar.Written in dark brown ink in a gothic liturgical hand, ruled in red, rubrics in red, calendar in red, blue and gold, capitals touched in yellow. One-line initials in gold alternately on blue ground with mauve filling and vice-versa, line-fillers in the same colouring. Two-line initials with full-length panel borders in burnished gold ivyleaf and black hairline designs which extend along the left margin and terminate in flowers.Three- and four-line initials on gold ground. 7 (of 14) large miniatures above four lines of text on decorated pages with full borders and 3 (of 4) smaller miniatures in the margins with full borders. – Apart from missing leaves in excellent condition. On the pastedown of the back cover modern notes in pencil concerning the collation as well as shelf-mark:‘Ms Co4’. – French 16th or 17th century brown calf over cardboards with gilt decoration in the corners and in the centre, corner-pieces and central panel in entrelac designs, gilt edges, binding rubbed, spine repaired.
PROVENANCE: 1. Fürstlich Fürstenbergische Hofbibliothek Donaueschingen, ms. 326. 2. Private collection, Germany
TEXT: Latin text, calendar and some prayers in French. fol. 1-12v: Calendar – fol. 13-17v: Gospel sequences (before fol. 13 beginning of St John missing) – fol. 18-25v: Obsecro te - fol. 22: O intemerata - fol. 26-27v: blank – fol. 28-89: Office of the Virgin, lacking the beginning of Matins (before fol. 28) and of Compline (before fol. 85) - fol. 89v: – blank – fol. 90- 105v: Penitential psalms with litany, lacking the beginning of penitential psalms, after fol. 105v loss of one leaf – fol. 106- 108v: Hours of the Holy Cross, lacking the beginning – fol. 108v-111v: Hours of the Holy Spirit – fol. 112-154v: Office of the Dead, lacking the beginning, after fol. 154 loss of one leaf – fol. 155-159v: Fifteen Joys of the Virgin, in French, lacking the beginning, after fol. 159 loss of one leaf – fol. 160-162v: Seven Petitions to our Lord, lacking the beginning - fol. 163-164v: blank. In its choice and order of texts this book of hours represents the ordinary Parisian type. While the O intemerata is written in the female form (‘michi miserrime peccatrici’), the Obsecro te prayer includes both the female (‘michi famule tue’) and the male form (‘ego sum facturus’). Thus the gender of the prayers suggests a female rather than a male patron as the male form was fairly consistently substituted by the female form.
ILLUMINATION: Small miniatures: (before fol. 13 missing: St John on Patmos) – fol. 14: St Luke – fol. 15: St Matthew – fol. 16v: St Mark. Large miniatures: (before fol. 28 missing: Annunciation) – fol. 49v:Visitation – fol. 60: Nativity – fol. 65v: Annunciation to the Shepherds – fol. 70: Adoration of the Magi – fol. 74: Visitation – fol. 78: Flight into Egypt – (before fol. 90 missing: David) – (before fol. 106 missing: Crucifixion) – fol. 109: Pentecost – (before fol. 112, fol. 155, and fol. 160: three miniatures missing). Despite the loss of probably eight miniatures the book of hours with its three smaller border miniatures and seven large miniatures is still lavishly illuminated. The miniatures are captivating, with intense colouring and exceedingly delicate design; equal precision is shown in the depiction of figures, landscape and interiors. The figures have carefully modelled faces with mouths and cheeks softly accentuated in red. Great care is taken in the rendering of the robes. Dark, parallel strokes create shadowed areas, while gold highlights reflect light.The resulting contrast between bright and dark areas imparts solidity to the drapery and volume to the figures. In addition, the artist attains a three-dimensional effect by means of shadows cast by figures and objects. The manuscript is the work of an illuminator named after the Book of Hours of Jacques de Luxembourg (Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum, ms. Ludwig IX 11 – cf. von Euw/ Plotzek 1984, pp. 180-195; exh. cat. New York 1982, no. 80). As comparisons with works by Rogier van der Weyden show, the anonymous artist must have received his training in Northern France or the Southern Netherlands; moreover, he seems to have worked in Paris in close proximity to the Master of Dreux Budé (named after a Triptych for Dreux Budé, now separated). Recently, Nettekoven has suggested that the two masters are actually one and the same artist (Nettekoven 2004, pp. 37-39).The suggestion, however, is hard to substantiate. In both individual figures and whole compositions the manuscript at hand reveals striking parallels with the Book of Hours of Jacques de Luxembourg. The Nativity and the Adoration of the Magi are examples, as is the female figure of the Annunciation to the Shepherds who is almost identical in both manuscripts, though her male companions vary. Typical of the work of the Master of Jacques de Luxembourg are the stout figures with their round painterly rendered faces and a pictorial space built up from several layers, with gold applied to structure the surface.The halos are also distinctively executed, not fully painted but consisting of circular brush strokes applied in a light, transparent mode.The manuscript is thus a characteristic work of a painter whose style is imbued with the charm of both Flemish and Parisian art.
LITERATURE: Barack 1865, p. 252; Johne 1921, ill. p. 79; Huber in exh. cat. Donaueschingen 1958, p. 13; Huber 1978; Wolf 1979, pp. 13ff. and ill. 2f., 6f., 10; sales cat. Sotheby’s, 21 June 1982, lot 17; Plotzek 1987, no. 23; exh. cat. Cologne 2000, p. 316 and ill. p. 268. Plummer in exh. cat. New York 1982, p. 61; H. P. Kraus, New York, cat. 165, 1984, no. 14; Cardon 1992, pp. 165-172, esp. p. 169f. and pl. 24; Reynaud in exh. cat. Paris 1993, pp. 53-58; Cardon 1996, ill. p. 39; Nettekoven 2004, pp. 37-39.