The last flowering of French manuscript painting represented by an exceptionally lavishly illuminated book of hours in excellent condition
35 Book of hours, use of Paris, in Latin and FrenchManuscript on vellum, illuminated by an artist from the circle of Jean Pichore. France, Paris, c. 1500.
177 x 120 mm. 175 leaves, complete: I-II6, III-XXII8, XXIII4-1 (last blank leaf missing) not foliated, occasional catchwords. – Written space: 85 x 90 mm, single column, 18 lines, regular Textualis by the hand of one scribe.The incipits are marked by one- or two-line gold initials. All text pages are decorated by one-sided bar borders. – 56 miniatures: 24 calendar illustrations, 12 smaller miniatures 8 lines high, 17 extending to 4 lines of text with full borders of blue and gold acanthus and variously shaped panels with semi-naturalistic flowers, foliage and fruit, 3 full-page miniatures. – In very fine fresh condition throughout. – 16th-century gold-tooled leather binding over wooden boards, the covers framed by triple gilt fillets, foliage tools in the corners and oval medaillons at the centre of the covers rendering the Crucifixion and the Annunciation. The names C. Pelee and C. Chaperon in gilt letters on the front and the back cover. Pastedowns attached to the front and back cover, 5 flyleaves at the beginning and 3 flyleaves at the end. Edges gilt (old). In a modern leather fall-down-back box.
PROVENANCE: 1. The lettering on the covers as well as the entries on the front and back vellum endpapers refer to the Pelee de Valencourt and the Chaperon families as former owners.The entries of ownership start in 1646 and are continued in 1701 and 1736. On the first flyleaf at the back family records are noted down by a 17th-century hand. 2. Private collection France
TEXT: fol. 1-12v: Calendar – fol. 13-20: Gospel lessons – fol. 20v-24:“Obsecro te” – fol. 24v-27:“O intemerata” – fol. 28-87v: Office of the Virgin – fol. 88-93v: Hours of the Cross – fol. 94-98v: Hours of the Holy Spirit – fol. 99: Blank – fol. 100-116v: Penitential psalms – fol. 112: Litany – fol. 117-158: Office of the Dead – fol. 158v-167: Doulce dame and Doulx dieu – fol. 167v-174v: Suffrages to the saints – fol. 175: Entries of ownership (17th century).
ILLUMINATION: fol. 1-12v: 24 calendar miniatures of the labours of the month on rectos and the signs of the zodiac on versos incorporated into borders – fol. 13: St John – fol. 15: St Luke – fol. 17: St Matthew – fol. 19: St Mark – fol. 20v: Virgin and Child with angels – fol. 24v: Pietà – fol. 27v: Annunciation – fol. 49v: Visitation – fol. 60: Nativity – fol. 65v: Annunciation to the Shepherds – fol. 69v: Adoration of the Magi – fol. 73: Circumcision – fol. 77: Flight into Egypt – fol. 83: Coronation of the Virgin – fol. 88: Crucifixion – fol. 94: Pentecost – fol. 99v: David and Batsheba – fol. 116v: Job and his companions – fol. 158v:Virgin and Child – fol. 164: Trinity – Smaller miniatures: fol. 167v: Trinity – fol. 168: St Michael – fol. 168v: St John the Baptist – fol. 169: St John the Evangelist – fol. 169v: St Peter and Paul – fol. 170: St Jacob – fol. 171: St Nicholas – fol. 171v: St Anna – fol. 172: St Mary Magdalen – fol. 172v: St Katherine – fol. 173: St Barbara – fol. 174: St Geneviève. The illumination is of excellent painterly quality and can be attributed to the circle of Jean Pichore. Former research referred to the workshop of Pichore as school of Rouen (Ritter/Lafond 1913) and based this localization on the patronage of cardinal Georges d’Amboise in Rouen, adviser to Louis XII. In the meantime two distinct stylistic trends have been identified, springing from two manuscripts that set the pattern for the workshop’s ensuing production: Petrarch’s Triomphes (Paris, BN, fr. 594) and a book of hours in the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York (M 85).The rediscovery of documents known in the 19th century but then forgotten resulted in a relocalization of the workshop to Paris. Pichore was active as a miniaturist and publisher of books of hours and also worked in the graphic arts. An extensive œuvre can be ascribed to himself and his large and prolific atelier. The identification of the various manuscript painters associated with this workshop and the distinction of their respective artistic temperaments is still a subject of research. The painter of the present book of hours contributed to the Chants royaux du Puy Notre-Dame d´Amiens (Paris,BN, fr. 145) produced in 1518 for Louise de Savoie.The rendering of the Chant royal d’ Antoine Luvel (fol. 45v) is by the hand of our painter (Blum/Lauer 1930, p. 95). In contrast to Pichore, who often painted in an expressive manner and with broad brush strokes, the work of the present miniaturist is more refined and restrained. He prefers robes made of thick fabric which slows down the movement. His figure style is concentrated on calmness and the clarity of gesture. The miniaturist clearly emphasizes the significance of the figures that are depicted larger in proportion to the objects surrounding them. Space, surroundings and background are rendered in detail, but the setting of the scenes should not distract too much from the figures. This aspect becomes especially apparent in the miniature of Job and his friends (fol. 116), which also differs in some respects from the others. The frame laid around the miniature with its ivyleaf tendrils on highly burnished gold ground constitutes an archaic element. The Annunciation (fol. 27v) relates closely to the miniature of the Petites Heures d’Anne de Bretagne (Paris, BN, n. a. lat. 3027, fol. 14). Both Annunciation miniatures derive from the miniature of the same subject in the Hours of the Margrave Christopher of Baden (fol. 19), which, on the basis of its calendar, was produced after 1491 and is therefore one of the earliest known works by Pichore (König 1970). The rendering in the Petites Heures is probably by the hand of the Master of Petrarch’s Triumphs or by Pichore himself. The painter of the present manuscript is capable of displaying the wide range of modes of expression that were developed within the workshop of Pichore. Contrary to his master he convinces by a clear pictorial language and a refined colouring.This sense of preciousness and elaborate execution add to the appeal and charm of this manuscript, in which miniatures, border decoration and script supplement each other in a harmonious way.
LITERATURE: The manuscript is hitherto unpublished. Blum/Lauer 1930; König 1970; Plummer 1982; König 1992; Avril/Reynaud 1993; Zöhl 2004.