Use of Angers, In Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum.Bruges, c. 1440-1450

BOOK OF HOURS  (c.1440)


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Twelve full-page arch-topped miniatures with full borders of acanthus-leaves and other foliage and flowers, facing 5-line initials in blue and pink with white penwork on burnished gold grounds, and with similar full border decoration, book trimmed to edge of border decoration, and so borders often smudged on outer edges from thumbing, else in good and fresh condition; capitals touched in yellow, rubrics in red, numerous 1-line initials in alternate liquid gold and blue with penwork to contrast, numerous 2-line initials in liquid gold on blue and pink grounds touched with white penwork.

131 leaves (one blank), 125mm x 84mm, perhaps once with a calendar at the front, else complete, collation: i9 (a singleton), ii10 (2 singletons), iii11 (3 singletons), iv-vii9 (a singleton in each gathering), viii8, ix9 (a singleton), x8, xi2, xii9 (a singleton), xiii-xv8, xvi5 (of 6, last cancelled), with all full-page miniatures on added sheets, erratic modern pencil foliation (followed here) omits leaves between '10' and '20', between '70' and '90' and between '100' and '120', written space 85mm x 45mm, single column, 18 lines in brown ink in a small Gothic bookhand.

18th French red morocco gilt, blue paper endleaves, gilt edges, elaborate calligraphic initials 'TKL' on cut-out laid onto front pastedown.

A beautifully preserved Book of Hours, written and illuminated in Bruges for a patron in the vicinity of Angers in the mid-fifteenth century.  

Books of Hours prepared for the Use of Angers are rare. Leroquais lists only one in the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF. ms. lat. nouv. acq., 395), and the Fitzwilliam Museum, which holds the largest collection of Books of Hours in Britain, also records only one in its holdings (MS. 335; see M.R. James, Descriptive Catalogue of the MSS in the Fitzwilliam Museum, 1895 and Wormald & Giles, Descriptive Catalogue, 1982). 

The text here comprises the Hours of the Virgin interspersed with the Hours of the Cross and the Holy Spirit, with Matins (fol. 2r), Lauds, (fol. 11r), Prime (fol. 25r), Terce (fol. 31r), Sext (fol. 37r), None (fol. 44r), Vespers (fol. 50r), Compline (fol. 59r); suffrages of the saints (fol. 64r); the Seven Penitential Psalms (fol. 74r); a Litany with SS. Donatus and Amelberga (fol. 83v); and the Office of the Dead (fol. 93r). The interspersed Hours of the Virgin, Cross and Holy Spirit are characteristic of manuscripts from the Loire valley. 

The miniatures, set in elegantly tall and thin arch-topped frames (each approximately 95mm. by 48mm.), are fine examples of the work of Bruges artists in the mid-fifteenth century. The soft-pink, almond-shaped faces echo the work of the Masters of the Beady Eyes whose style dominated manuscript illumination in Bruges in the first decades of the fifteenth century, and on occasion (as in the eyes of the angels either side of Christ in the miniature on fol. 73v) the facial features are completely within that tradition. Yet the appearance of rows of small, round, lollipop-like trees in the background of many of the miniatures here, owes much to the work of the artist William Vrelant (active 1454-81), and places the artist here more towards the middle of the century. 

The subjects of the miniatures are: 

1. Folio 1r, the Annunciation to the Virgin, in which the Virgin stands at her prie deu reading, while a kneeling angel appears behind her holding a banderole enclosing "Ave gracia plena dominus tecum" as God appears in the upper left-hand corner, all within a Gothic interior with a curtained closet containing a bottle, a small pouch and a blue book. Some rubbing to border, else in excellent condition.  

2. Folio 11v, the Visitation, with the Virgin and St. Elizabeth set in a grassy landscape before trees, buildings and a colourfully depicted medieval town. Some rubbing to border, else in excellent condition. 

3. Folio 20v, the Crucifixion, with John the Evangelist and the Virgin Mary to the left and richly dressed Jews and soldiers (one with a liquid gold shield) to the right. All in excellent condition.

4. Folio 22v, Pentecost, with the Virgin seated in the centre, a book in her lap, surrounded by followers, each with a burnished gold halo, as the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descends through an open window. Small scratch damaging dove, else in excellent condition.

5. Folio 24, the Nativity of Christ, with Joseph, the Virgin, and an angel all kneeling before the bower, around the Child from whom liquid gold lines radiate; Bethlehem as a medieval town in the background. Minor stain to inner border and outer border slightly thumbed, else excellent condition. 

6. Folio 31v, the Annunciation to the Shepherds, with the angel appearing in the sky, holding a banderole: "Gloria in ..." before two shepherds surrounded by sheep, all before a hilly landscape with a tiny windmill atop a hill and a walled town in the background. Small damage to end of banderole, else excellent condition. 

7. Folio 37v, the Adoration of the Magi, with the three kings (each with burnished gold gifts) before the Virgin and Child in the bower. Slight thumbing to border, else in excellent condition. 

8. Folio 42v, the Presentation in the Temple, with the Virgin kneeling before the altar, before the priest who hold the Child, surrounded by followers, all within a medieval church interior. Slight thumbing to lower border, else excellent condition. 

9. Folio 47v, the Massacre of the Innocents, with a woman on her knees before Herod, holding onto her child as a soldier in detailed armour with a blue tunic edged in liquid gold, raises a sword to strike the child. Slight thumbing to border, else in excellent condition. 

10. Folio 58v, the Flight into Egypt, with Joseph, a red knapsack over his shoulder, leading the Virgin and the Child on a donkey in a rocky landscape. Minor flaking of paint from donkey's ears, else excellent condition. 

11. Folio 74v, Judgment Day, with Christ seated on a rainbow, his feet resting on a burnished gold orb, and surrounded by two angels who blow the last trump on long horns, the Virgin and St. John kneeling beneath him in prayer, all before a grassy scene from which the dead are rising from their graves. Some rubbing to the borders, else excellent condition. 

12. F.92v, Christ raising Lazarus from the dead, with Christ standing before followers in blue and liquid gold robes, gesturing to Lazarus who stands up out of a stone sarcophagus, all within a Gothic interior. Borders thumbed, else in excellent condition.  

Provenance: Joanna Law-Smith, Baroness Tredegar (1912-2002); sold at Sotheby's, London 9th July 1973, lot 66.

Stock Code: 246040

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