Workshop of Colin d’Amiens (Master of Coëtivy) (active Paris, c. 1460-1500)
From a presumably lost manuscript of Francesco Eiximenes’ Livre des Anges, this leaf was illuminated in Paris in the workshop of Colin d’Amiens (Master of Coëtivy). The Livre des anges is divided into five books: the first describes the nature of angels, the second presents the ranks and orders of the celestial hierarchy, the third discusses the benefits of angels, the fourth describes the creation of the angels, and the fifth is devoted to the archangel St. Michael. This leaf, foliated ff. 143-143v, introduced the fifth book with a large miniature of St. Michael slaying the Devil, before kneeling laymen, laywomen and King. Another leaf, foliated ff. 86-86v, introduced the end of the third book and the beginning of the fourth with a large arch-topped miniature showing a group of angels in full-armor defeating four demons armed with sticks.
This leaf surrounded by a vivid floral border is closely related to the style of Colin d’Amiens, identified with the Master of Coëtivy, deemed “the most important artist active in Paris in the third quarter of the fifteenth century” (Avril and Reynaud 1993, pp. 58-69; Lorentz 2004, pp. 97-102). The scene is set before an impressive castle surrounded with water, offering a convincing representation of the landscape’s depth. Similar settings are often found in Colin d’Amiens’ own miniatures, for instance in a manuscript of the Histoire ancienne and Faits des Romains (Colin d’Amiens, Paris, BnF, MS fr. 64: fig. 1). Further similarities arise upon comparison of St. Michael with other depictions of the archangel, especially that opening the fifth book of another copy of Eiximenes’ Livre des Anges, which may be attributed to Colin d’Amiens (Paris, BnF, Arsenal MS 5213, f. 115: fig. 2). Both miniatures demonstrate an illusionistic rendering of the shimmering armor and a subtle distribution of the dazzling colors, which provide the scene with a sense of poetic fantasy. Other comparisons include a St. Michael in a Book of Hours for the use of Rennes attributed to Colin d’Amiens (Christie’s, 7 July 2010, lot 37: fig. 3). The present leaf was likely illuminated within Colin d’Amiens’ workshop, by a talented assistant who may have contributed to a Book of Hours for the use of Paris now in Prague (National Library of the Czech Republic, MS CIL L 190; Stejskal 1994, pp. 717-718). Indeed, the light drawing of the archangel and laymen’s white faces, with a rounded eye and a thin nose, the subtle shading of their neck with a discrete cross-hatching, as well as the angular folds of some draperies are best compared with the first miniatures of this Book of Hours (see e.g. Workshop of Colin d’Amiens, Prague, MS CIL L 190: fig. 4, 5).
A French translation of Françesc Eiximenis’ Llibre dels Àngels written in 1392, the Livre des Anges describes the properties and characteristics of angels. This treatise of angelology offers a compilation of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite’s De triplici gerarchia that describes nine ranks of angels, divided into three Spheres, each with three Orders of angels. The first sphere gathers the Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones; the second, Dominations, Virtues, and Powers; the third, Principalities, Archangels, and Angels. The closest celestial beings to men, angels are also the most likely to intercede in their favor.
A Franciscan writer born in Gerona, Eiximenis (1327-1409) was among the most important theologians and moralists of the crown of Aragon (Planas Bádenas 1997-1998). Dedicated to Pere d’Artés, chamberlain to King John I of Aragon (r. 1387-1396), this text enjoyed an important success throughout Europe that contributed to the restoration of the cult of angels in the fifteenth century. It was translated into French and published as a first printed edition in Geneva as soon as 1478. Only twelve manuscripts of this French translation were recorded in the early twentieth century (Massó i Torrents 1909-1910, pp. 627-633), three of which were illustrated with miniatures (Paris, BnF, MS fr. 186; MS fr. 24773; Arsenal, MS 5213). Historiated manuscripts of the French translation are rare, and often related to prestigious patrons. These include a manuscript in Geneva (Bibliothèque de Genève, MS fr. 5), illuminated by the Master of the Geneva Boccacio for Jeanne of Laval, second wife to King René of Anjou (r. 1435-1480), and another one in Paris (BnF, MS fr. 186) commissioned by the prominent bibliophile Louis de Bruges, Lord of Gruuthuse, from the Master of the Getty Froissart.
Only one sister leaf from the present, presumably lost manuscript is known (Les Enluminures MIN 20-27).
Unpublished; see for comparisons:
F. Avril and N. Reynaud, Les Manuscrits à peintures en France, 1440-1520, Paris, 1993.
P. Lorentz, “La peinture à Paris au XVe siècle: un bilan (1904-2004),” in Primitifs français, Découvertes et redécouvertes, ed. D. Thiébaut, P. Lorentz, and F. René-Martin, Paris, 2004,pp. 86-107.
J. Massó i Torrents, “Les Obres de fra Francesch Eiximeniç (1340? – 1409?). Essaig d’una bibliografia,” Anuari. Institut d’Estudis Catalans, 1909-1910, pp. 588-692.
J. Planas Bádenas, “Los códices ilustrados de Francesc Eiximenis: análisis de su iconografía,” Anuario del Departamento de Historia y Teoría del Arte 9-10 (1997-1998), pp. 73-90.
K. Stejskal, “Über die Illuminatoren der Französischen Stundenbücher in der Prager Nationalbibliotek,” Wiener Jahrbuch für Kunstgeschichte, 46/47 (1994), pp. 715-724.