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Description

With lush borders filled with distinctive gold scrollwork on black, this leaf is a remarkably ornate example of Bohemian illumination in the influential “Beautiful Style” of the first decades of the fifteenth century. The initial shows the twelve apostles crowded together in a landscape with the crossing arm of the letter ‘E’ passing behind them. Wolves with small white lambs in their jaws and a single blue snake populate the colorful borders, playfully illustrating the chant Ecce ego mitto vos sicut oves in medio luporum (“Behold I am sending you forth like sheep in the midst of wolves”), a Response for the Common of Apostles.

The underdrawings and the lush borders date to the second decade of the 1500s, executed by an artist in the circle of the Master of the Hasenburg Missal. Named for a lavish manuscript made for Archbishop Hasenburg (or Hazmburk) of Prague in 1409 (figure 1, Vienna, ÖNB, cod. 1844), the Master of the Hasenburg Missal is among the most notable artists working in the Bohemian “Beautiful Style” in the last decades before the iconoclastic tumult of the Hussite Wars (1419-1434). The underdrawings clearly delineate the draperies of the figures and the animals, foliates, and tendrils in the margins.

The leaf was probably finished at the end of the sixteenth century or in the 1600s and was initially left ungilded and partly incomplete. Other Bohemian manuscripts were completed in a similar manner, including the so-called Zittau Missals from Prague (Vesperale and Matutinale, Zittau, Christian-Weise-Bibliothek, Mscr. A I and A VI; see Theisen 2015). The later artist slightly reworked the miniature and finished the coloring – including outlining the drapery and rearranging the position of heads, evident in the misaligned red halo and the expression of the apostle at left who stares directly out at the viewer. This later artist also overpainted an opaque red outline for the initial ‘E’ to finish the landscape (visible under the small losses of paint on the left side of the miniature and also with transmitted light). Further study is needed to reveal the extent of the later artist’s interventions, but they all show careful attention to the early fifteenth-century design.

The parent manuscript, an Antiphonal, must have been dismembered by the late nineteenth century. The present leaf comes from the Munich collection of Fritz Hasselmann and served as the source art for the front cover of the catalogue of his 1892 sale (figure 2, where the initial ‘E’ is misconstrued as a ‘C’). It was one of 26 leaves in the Hasselmann sale from the same Antiphonal (lots 8-34). Locations of the sister leaves are unknown but surely exist.

The leaf ruled in red (ruled space 310 x 220 mm.), with square notation in black ink on 8 four-line staves in red, with 9 four-line staves on the verso, rubrics in red, with initials in blue, red, and black, some with penwork decoration and two with anthropomorphic faces touched with red, written in a Gothic bookhand in black ink, with chants for the feasts of Saints Eligius and Andrew on the verso. The parchment with some staining and creases, the verso with some staining and transfer from another manuscript and with remnants of former mount, the miniature with small losses of paint, with one spot rubbed in the left border.

We are grateful to Dr. Maria Theisen for expertise and suggestions for comparisons.

Provenance:

Fritz Hasselmann (d. 1894), Munich, his collector’s stamp on left corner of verso (Lugt 1012), sold Munich, 1892, lot 33; Private European Collection, sold London, Christie’s, 11 July 2018, lot 16; Private Collection, Switzerland.

Literature:

H. Helbig, Catalog der reichhaltigen und hervorragenden Sammlung von alten Pergamentminiaturen sowie Handzeich und Aquarellen...Frits Hasselmann in Kapfelberg früher in München, Munich, 24 November 1892, no. 33 (ill., and reproduced, with modifications, on front cover).

For comparisons and further reading see:

G. Schmidt, “The Beautiful Style,” in Prague: The Crown of Bohemia, 1347-1437, ed. B.D. Boehm and J. Fajt, New York, New Haven and London, 2005, pp. 102-111 [exhibition catalogue].

U. Jenni and M. Theisen, Mitteleuropäische Schulen IV (ca. 1380-1400): Hofwerkstätten König Wenzels IV. und Deren Umkreis, Vienna, 2014.

M. Theisen, “Der große Prager Bücherschatz,” in M. Winzeler, U. Kahl and M. Theisen, Zittauer Zimelien: der große Prager Bücherschatz (10 Stationen zur mitteleuropäischen Buchmalerei des 15. Jahrhunderts, ed. J. Hamburger and C. Mackert, vol. 10), Lucerne, 2015, pp. 21-35 [exhibition catalogue].

Online resources:

Lugt Database, Fritz Hasselmann (Lugt 1012):
http://www.marquesdecollections.fr/detail.cfm/marque/6993/total/1

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