A rare example of a manual for the secular clergy illuminated by an artist from the milieu of the Bedford workshop
14 Compilation of pastoral and mystical texts from the library of the Celestine Convent of MarcoussisManuscript on vellum, illuminated by the Hoo Master. France, Paris, c. 1425-35. 200 x 133 mm. 186 leaves, including 3 original blank (ruled) leaves, 2 at the beginning and one at the end, complete, original red foliation at upper margin up to 188 (incorrectly omitting fol. 170-179), pencil foliation 189-193.The quire scheme cannot be reconstructed owing to the tight binding. – Written space: 135/140 mm x 82/95 mm, 32 lines per page. Fine Cursiva Formata (Bastarda) in dark brown ink, ruled in purple ink, red and blue paragraphs, capitals touched in yellow. – C. 230 small decorative initials alternately in red and blue with penwork decoration, 16 large decorative initials with foliage infill on square-shaped burnished gold grounds accompanied by border extensions of gold ivyleaves on hairline stems and interspersed with flowers and fruit. 3 large historiated initials accompanied by three-sided borders in the same manner. – In exceedingly fine condition throughout. – Historicized French binding by Lortic fils, gold-tooled red morocco decorated to a Renaissance design of straight and curved fillets and hatched tools, spine tooled in compartments, dark blue morocco doublures with arabesque borders, blue silk liners, endpapers consisting of one marbled paper and 2 vellum flyleaves, gilt edges, in dark blue morocco slipcase.
PROVENANCE: 1. Library of the Celestine Convent of Marcoussis. Inscriptions of ownership on fol. 1, 62v, 128v, 160v, 181v, 186v, all in a 17th-century hand, and on fol. 193 in a 15th-century hand with shelf mark in Arabic numerals. 2. Private collection Switzerland.
TEXT: fol. 1-128v: Guido de Monte Rocherii, Manipulus curatorum – fol. 129-161v: Liber de castitate sacerdotum – fol. 162r/v: Un miracle de la Vierge – fol. 163-181v: (recte 171v) Jean Gerson, De praeparatione ad missam post pollutionem nocturnam. (Text complete; the erroneous foliation omits numbers 170 to 179) – fol. 182-186v: Jean Gerson, De arte audiendi confessions – fol. 187-188v:Treatise on confession – fol. 189r/v: Declamation on the dignity of priests – fol. 189v-190v: Poem on priests – fol. 190v-191: Other Latin verses addressed to priests – fol. 191v-193: Computational table for the calculation of Easter. The numerous abbreviations indicate that the manuscript was intended for the use of a well-versed theologian as is suggested also by the subject matter, a compilation of pastoral writings. The main text, the Manipulus curatorum, is a manual for the secular clergy in three parts. Part one explains the importance of the office of the priest as follower of St Peter who had been appointed by Christ himself. The role of the priest in the sacraments with a focus on confessional matters is the subject of part two, and part three deals with the Creed and with canon law.The author of this pastoral treatise, which enjoyed great popularity all over Europe and was among the first theological texts to appear in print,was Guido de Monte Rocherii (or Monte Roterio), a Spaniard living in Aragon. He composed it in Teruel in 1333 for the Bishop of Valencia. Various short writings, mostly anonymous, complement the Manipulus. Especially noteworthy are two texts by Jean Gerson (1363-1429), undoubtedly the most important French theologian of his time.
ILLUMINATION: fol. 1: St Peter kneeling in a landscape – fol. 63: Confession scene – fol. 11v: Moses receiving the Ten Commandments. Compilations of theological texts do not belong to the genre of manuscripts that traditionally received decoration of high quality. While pen-flourished initials, partly with gold leaf, structure the texts throughout, the Manipulus stands out for its sophisticated illumination. Three historiated initials mark the main textual divisions. When defining the stylistic attribution the Bedford Master and his workshop come to mind immediately. However, we can rule out the master himself, who attracted a wide circle of followers whose activity has not yet been studied systematically. A common feature of the associates at the Bedford workshop, and hence also of our artist, is their more precise drawing style. The stylistic idiom oscillates between the newly acquired ability to depict landscapes and interiors not as a mere background foil but as a real spatial dimension using sophisticated chromatic effects, and, on the other hand, a sense of ornament and embellishment. The artistic milieu to which the creator of the present miniatures belongs extends from illuminators like the Dunois Master (named after a book of hours of Jean de Dunois, bastard of Orléans, London, British Library,Yates Thompson 3) to the Master of the Munich Legenda Aurea (named after cod. gall. 3 of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich) and is associated with a host of artists whose œuvres have not yet been defined. Most of these illuminators worked in the service of French patrons but were also employed by members of the English nobility during the English occupation of Paris. The illuminator of the manuscript at issue takes his name from a manuscript made to the order of Thomas Lord Hoo, Chancellor of Normandy (cf. Williams 1975). The most important work in which he participated is the Shrewsbury Book (London, BL,Royal E VI), an anthology of French literature, which John Talbot Earl of Shrewsbury had commissioned for Queen Mary of Anjou during her English exile. In this commission, dated before 1443, the Hoo Master worked alongside the Talbot Master. His technical skill is visible e.g. in a miniature from a book of hours, whose illumination, however, is mainly due to the Master of the Munich Legenda Aurea (exh. cat. Cologne 2001, no. 9).The Hours of Gilbert de Lafayette can be cited as a manuscript entirely by our artist’s hand (König 1989, no. 56). His activity can be located in Paris and spans the second quarter of the 15th century. The present codex confirms the connection with the French capital, as the convent of Marcoussis repeatedly commissioned works by Parisian artists. As a rare exception to an œuvre otherwise dominated by the genre of the book of hours, our manuscript reveals another important facet of the art of the Hoo Master.
LITERATURE: The manuscript is hitherto unpublished. Williams 1975; exh. cat. Den Haag 1983, no. 69; König 1989, no. 56; exh. cat. Cologne 2001, no. 9.