A Dutch book of hours illuminated in one of the principal Utrecht workshops in the third quarter of the 15th century
24 Book of hours, use of Utrecht, in the Dutch translation of Geert GroteManuscript on vellum, illuminated by one of the Masters of Gijsbrecht van Brederode. Northern Netherlands, Utrecht?, c. 1465-70.
182 x 130 mm. 190 leaves, complete:A2 (first leaf pasted onto upper cover), I-II6, III-XV8, XVI6, XVII-XIX8, XX6, XXI-XXV8, (last 2 terminal blank leaves pasted onto lower cover, thus serving as pastedown). – Written space: 102 x 65 mm, ruled in brown ink for 20 lines, written in brown ink in a prickly Gothic liturgical hand, rubrics and major feasts in the calendar in red, red underlining, capitals touched in red, one- and two-line initials throughout in blue or red, one three-line initial (fol. 13) in blue on a red pen-flourish field. – 32 large illuminated initials with three-sided illuminated borders, the initials 4 to 5 lines high in gold on blue and pink fields with white tracery (alternating colours inside and outside the letter), enclosing painted flowers, with baguettes along the left side of the text columns, and decoration of purple ink sprays with tiny green petal-shaped leaves, gold bezants, and painted flowers in the upper and lower margins of rectos and in 3 margins of versos, 6 large historiated initials with full borders, the initials 10 lines high in blue, pink or blue and pink (fol. 123) with white tracery on gold fields, with baguettes below the initial and decoration in all margins of purple ink sprays with tiny green and purple petal-shaped leaves, gold bezants, and painted with gold foliage and flowers. – Generally in extremely bright fresh condition with wide margins, the opening fol. 122v-123 dust-stained, a few other negligible signs of use. – 16th-century blind-stamped calf over wooden boards, frames filled with vase and floral roll-tools, floral stamps in compartments, and a central stamp of a lion rampant. Spine worn and partly defective, traces (small holes) of former clasps. Modern brown morocco fall-down-back box.
PROVENANCE: 1. Written probably in Utrecht. The calendar includes a red entry for St Jeroen (17 August), which suggests a destination in the province of Holland. 2. Franz Trau of Vienna; sale of his estate Vienna, Gilhofer & Ranschburg, 27/28 October 1905, lot 39.
TEXT: fol. l-12v: Calendar, including in red St Pontian, Agnes, Pancrace, Servatius, Boniface, Odulf, Lebuin, Martin, Mary Magdalen, Jeroen, Lambert, Maurice,Willibrord, etc. – fol. 13-49: Hours of the Virgin (Use of Utrecht); fol. 49v blank – fol. 50-71v: Hours of the Eternal Wisdom – fol. 72- 99v: Long Hours of the Cross – fol. 100-122v: Short Hours of the Holy Spirit – fol. 123-137v: Penitential psalms – fol. 131v: Litany – fol. 138-152v: Prayers and suffrages to saints – fol. 153-189: Office of the Dead – fol. 190 blank. The text is in Dutch throughout, in the translation of Geert Grote (1340-84), one of the chief protagonists of the religious movement of devotio moderna. The originals simplicity of Christian faith in imitation of Christ was at the heart of this movement. Special importance is attached to the translation of Latin prayers into the vernacular as man is thereby enabled to develop a deeper understanding of the texts, which had until then been precluded, at least for the laity, by the exclusive use of the Latin language. The Hours of the Eternal Wisdom (fol. 50) by Geert Grote is the only text associated with an author’s name. There is no Latin equivalent of this text.The Hours of the Eternal Wisdom are a more frequent textual component of books of hours from the diocese of Utrecht (cf. also our no. 19). A large number of manuscripts containing this text which were brought together from various public collections at the Universitätsbibliothek of Münster for a research project were destroyed in a bomb attack during World War II.
ILLUMINATION: fol. 13: Annunciation – fol. 50: Christ among the Doctors – fol. 72: Christ on the Cross – fol. 100: Pentecost – fol. 123: The Last Judgement – fol. 153: Funeral Service. The beginnings of the hours are marked by historiated initials; the beginnings of the prayers for the canonical hours are denoted by illuminated initials accompanied by borders. The restrained illumination appropriately reflects the ideal of modesty promulgated by the devotio moderna. The six historiated initials in this manuscript are hitherto unrecorded works by one of the Masters of Gijsbrecht van Brederode (cf. also our no. 19).The painters are named after a book of hours made between 1460 and 1470 for Gijsbrecht van Brederode, Dean of the cathedral and Bishop-elect of Utrecht (Liège, Bibliothèque de l’Université,Wittert ms. 13; cf. exh. cat. Utrecht 1989, no. 65).They were among the leading illuminators in Utrecht during the third quarter of the 15th century. In addition to Gijsbrecht van Brederode, they worked for other members of the ecclesiastical hierarchy in Utrecht, among them Evert Zoudenbalch and Jacobus Johannes Ijsbrandus, both canons of Utrecht Cathedral. Works by the Masters of Gijsbrecht van Brederode display their interest in detailed story telling, pictorial naturalism and decorative embellishment.They paint in light and warm colours and favour complex,multi-figured compositions (see particularly Christ among the Doctors, fol. 50, and the Funeral Service, fol. 153).They also make abundant use of borders decorated with multicoloured curling acanthus in green, pink, gold and blue. The Annunciation (fol. 13) is set in a Gothic interior with the Virgin Mary kneeling at a prie-dieu in front of a purple cloth of honour Gabriel is approaching from the left holding a banderol. God the Father appears in bust length through the upper part of a doorway on the left and the dove of the Holy Spirit is hovering over Mary. The composition has very close parallels with those in the book of hours by the same painter in Cambridge (Fitzwilliam Museum, McClean ms.94; cf. exh. cat. Utrecht 1989, no. 69, fig. 123) and Utrecht (University Library, ms. 15.C.5; cf. exh. cat. Utrecht 1984, no. 124).The border decoration of the miniatures in the latter book also includes distinctive purple ink-sprays similar to those in the present manuscript. A noteworthy accomplishment of our miniaturist is the threedimensionality displayed in the image fields of the historiated initials. The letters are intelligently integrated into the composition, creating a decidedly narrative and atmospheric scene which turns each initial letter into a small world of its own.
LITERATURE: Sales cat. Gilhofer & Ranschburg, 27/28 Oct. 1905, lot 39. Exh. cats. Utrecht 1984 and Utrecht/New York 1989/1990.