A superb book of hours from the time of Jean de Berry
13 Book of hours, use of ParisManuscript on vellum, illuminated by the workshop of the Bedford Master. France, Paris, c. 1405-10.
206 x 148 mm. 150+4 leaves: I12, II-VI8,VII8-1 (lacks one before fol. 53),VIII-XII8, XIII8+1 (fol. 108 added), XIV-XVIII8, XIX8-6 the end of the text missing, replaced by a later hand in gatherings XX-XXI2. Horizontal catchwords in a cursive hand in black ink at the end of most gatherings. Partial foliation in pencil, partly incorrect. – Written space: 111 x 70 mm, ruled in red, mostly 16 lines, 17 in the calendar. Text written in black ink in a fine gothic Cursiva Formata, rubricated in red, the calendar alternating in blue and red, feast days in gold. One- or two-line initials and line endings on an alternately blue and red ground. Every page with an ivyleaf border interspersed with little blossoms in the outer margin. – 11 large miniatures, heading 4 lines of text with a three-line ivyleaf initial, magnificently surrounded by full borders of an unusual style: instead of the ivyleaf pattern commonly used to decorate the borders the hairline stems terminate in oval-shaped leaves in gold, red and blue, occasionally also in green. – In very good condition – 16th-century German blind-stamped pigskin binding, covers panelled with roll tools, gilt edges.Two clasps, one missing. Spine restored, vellum endpapers.
PROVENANCE: 1. In 1707 the manuscript was in an unknown library of the Recollects, a branch of the Franciscans, first established in France about 1570, but also in existence in other countries. 2. Private collection Europe.
TEXT: fol. 1-12v: Calendar in French, a saint listed for each day, for Paris or Noyon use – fol. 13-75: Office of the Virgin (use of Paris), lacks the beginning of Terce; fol. 75v blank – fol. 76-93v: Penitential Psalms; fol. 88: Litany – fol. 94-101v: Hours of the Cross – fol. 102-108: Hours of the Holy Spirit; fol. 108v blank – fol. 109-150v: Office of the Dead, lacking the end of the text which was replaced in a 16th-century hand.
ILLUMINATION: fol. 13:Annunciation – fol. 35v:Visitation – fol. 46v: Nativity – miniature of the Annunciation to the Shepherds missing – fol. 55v:Adoration of the Magi – fol. 59v: Presentation – fol. 63v: Rest on the Flight into Egypt – fol. 70: Coronation of the Virgin – fol. 76:David in Penitence – fol. 94: Crucifixion – fol. 102: Pentecost – fol. 109: Funeral mass. While this manuscript is decorated with a cycle of miniatures covering the subjects commonly used to illustrate books of hours, the artistic interpretation is quite exceptional. In the Nativity miniature (fol. 46v) the newborn Christ child lies on a bed surrounded by seraphim; in the upper right corner God the Father is sending out rays of gold onto him.The Dove of the Holy Spirit completes this embodiment of the Holy Trinity. Joseph is shown from behind, leaving the scene and half hidden by the post of the stable, a pictorial element which evokes a notion of movement. Both compositional motifs, the representation of the Holy Trinity incorporated in the Nativity scene and Joseph turning away from the event, are highly unusual, if not unique, in Parisian illumination of that time. Likewise, the Rest on the Flight into Egypt (fol. 63v) is a subject rarely depicted in French books of hours. In the Crucifixion (fol. 94) the illuminator achieves monumental effects by choosing a close-up perspective. The horizontal beam of the cross extends to the entire width of the image field while the vertical beam is cut off by the upper margin. The manuscript was undoubtedly executed in Paris. The chequered backgrounds, a widely used decorative feature, are indicative of a date in the early years of the 15th century. On the other hand, the border decoration of gold leaves surrounded by a wreath of very fine tendrils, and the blossoms and rose buds which add green to the usually restricted palette of blue, red and gold, are not at all common in Paris. This book of hours is a product of a workshop that counts among the most interesting ateliers of manuscript illumination in Paris during the first half of the 15th century.The anonymous artist takes his name from a group of manuscripts made to the order of John Duke of Bedford. Research has unequivocally observed a discrepancy between the early productions of the workshop and the later manuscripts commissioned by the Duke of Bedford.The early group consists of stylistically fairly divergent manuscripts, all affiliated with each other, however, by their distinct, unusual illumination, atypical of Paris productions of that time.This observation gave rise to the identification of the illuminator with Haincelin de Hagenau, an Alsatian artist working to the order of the Dauphin Louis de Guyenne. On stylistic grounds the book of hours in question relates to two fully illustrated manuscripts of the Livre de la chasse (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fr. 606 and New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, M 1044). According to recent research by François Avril, the Bedford Master himself assumed chief responsibility for the manuscript in Paris, whereas the attribution of the New York codex is more complex, and Avril offers no precise proposal as to the contribution of various illuminators to this latter manuscript. The miniatures that illustrate the New York Livre de la chasse indisputably show the same aptness in individually interpreting the iconographic programme found in our book of hours. Both Livres de la chasse were produced for patrons close to the French court, and it is conceivable that they were ordered by the Duke of Burgundy after 1404, more precisely around 1408. Our book of hours is to be attributed to the group of illuminators in the entourage of the Bedford Master.The dated book of hours of 1408 in Oxford (Bodleian Library, Douce 144) adopts a comparable composition for the Nativity miniature (fol. 63, cf. Meiss 1968, pl. 53). Although the Bedford Master himself is the author of this miniature it attests to the affiliation of our artists with the Bedford workshop, yet in spite of his superb ability and individuality he remains anonymous. His hand reveals a deep understanding of the theological mindset and an extraordinary artistic temperament which yields novel and inventive interpretations.
LITERATURE: The manuscript is hitherto unpublished. Meiss 1968 and 1974; Backhouse 1991; Thomas/Avril 1998; exh. cat. Paris 2004; exh. cat.Turin 2006;Avril/Voelkle 2006; forthcoming: König/Bartz 2006/7.