37

Description

UNUSUALLY RICH NARRATIVE PAINTINGS WITH INTRICATE ARCHITECTURAL BORDERS

Rouen and Troyes emerged as the most significant centers of art production north of Paris after the conclusion of the Hundred Years’ War in the late fifteenth century.  On the eve of the Renaissance, this book survives as testimony to these flourishing capital cities, made in Rouen by an artist from the circle of the Master of the Missal of Raoul du Fou (fl. c. 1480-1530) for a client possibly from Troyes.  Complex architectural borders reminiscent of Jean Pichore (fl. 1502-1521) house narrative episodes that expand upon details of the story told in the main miniatures.

ii (paper) + i (parchment) + 177 + ii (paper) folios on parchment, modern foliation in pencil, 1-177 [erroneously recording third flyleaf as f. 1], lacking one leaf with miniature and text (collation i6 [+1, one leaf following f. 6], ii6, iii8, iv8, v8, vi8, vii8, viii8, ix8, x7 [-1, one leaf following 76v, with loss of text], xi8, xii8, xiii8, xiv8, xv8, xvi8, xvii8, xviii8, xix8, xx8, xxi8, xxii8, xxiii6), catchwords, ruled in brown ink (justification 72 × 55 mm), written in bâtarde script on 17 lines, Calendar written in French with brown and red inks, French rubrics for indulgences and Suffrages  ff. 158-176,  1-line initials in burnished gold on alternating red and blue grounds, 2-line initials painted blue or white with floral decoration on red and blue grounds, panel borders with flowers, fruit, acanthus leaves, birds, snails, and drolleries on blue, red, and liquid gold grounds, 13 LARGE MINIATURES framed by architectural borders in good condition, 11 SMALL MINIATURES in lower portion of architectural frames in good condition, early seventeenth-century inscriptions on ff. 2 and 178, eighteenth-century inscription on flyleaf, small thumbing in a few places, a few leaves with slight cockling and minor wear, otherwise in very fine condition. Eighteenth-century binding in red Morocco leather over pasteboards with rich gilding and bookplate on the back; twentieth-century black and red slip case of leather and cloth. Dimensions 142 × 90 mm.

Provenance

1. Created for a patron in Troyes or Rouen. Calendar feasts highlighted in red for local saints in each area: the martyr Mastidia of Troyes (May 7) and Saint Remigius of Rouen (January 19);

2. Handwritten donation notes on folio 2 and again on folio 178: “Petrus D[?] filiae suae amantissmae Ludovicae dono dedit anno domini 1613 December 23rd”;

3. Bookplate of William Simonds Higgs (1759-1829), Esq. of Kensington (his library auctioned by Sotheby’s on April 22, 1830, this Book of Hours cataloged no. 713);

4. Handwritten note: “DC Baker 1968,” possibly Donald C. Baker (1928-2019), Professor Emeritus of medieval literature, University of Colorado;

5. European private collection

Text

f. 1, blank folio; 

ff. 2-13, Calendar in French, with major feasts rubricated red. Local feasts include the aforementioned martyr Mastidia and Saint Remigius; 

ff. 14-19v, Gospels Sequences: John (ff. 14-15v), Luke (ff. 16-17), Matthew (ff. 17v-18v), Mark (f. 19); 

f. 20, blank folio; 

ff. 21-24, Hours of the Cross;

ff. 24v-30, Hours of the Holy Spirit; 

ff. 30v-82v, Hours of the Virgin: Matins (ff. 30v-40v), Lauds (ff. 41-52), Prime (f. 52v-58), Terce (ff. 58v-62v), Sext (ff. 63-66v), None (ff. 67-70v), Vespers (ff. 71-76v), Compline (ff. 77-82v), begins imperfectly lacking the opening miniature and the first verses; 

ff. 83-94v, Seven Penitential Psalms; 

ff. 95-103, The Litanies; 

ff. 104-116, Office of the Dead; 

ff. 117-156v, Passio Christi;

ff. 158-176, Various prayers and suffrages with French rubrics;

Illustration

Thirteen large miniatures; subjects as follows. 

f. 14, Saint John the Evangelist; 

f. 20v, Crucifixion; 

f. 24v, Pentecost; 

f. 30v, Annunciation; 

f. 41, Visitation; 

f. 52v, Nativity; 

f. 58v, Annunciation to the Shepherds; 

f. 63, Adoration of the Magi; 

f. 67, Presentation in the Temple; 

f. 71r, Flight to Egypt; 

f. 83, King David; 

f. 104, Lazarus and Dives; 

f. 147, Transfiguration; 

In eleven of the thirteen miniatures, smaller vignettes are painted in the lower borders, which are thematically oriented to the scenes above; subjects as follows. 

f. 14, Marginal vignette, Scene from the life of Saint John the Evangelist; 

f. 20v, Marginal vignette, The Resurrection; 

f. 24v, Marginal vignette, Ascension; 

f. 30v, Marginal vignette, Meeting at the Golden Gate; 

f. 41, Marginal vignette, Virgin Weaving; 

f. 52v, Marginal vignette, Annunciation to the Shepherds; 

f. 58, Marginal vignette, Adoration of the Shepherds; 

f. 63, Marginal vignette, Magi and Herod; 

f. 83, Marginal vignette, David and Goliath; 

f. 104, Marginal vignette, Job on the Dung Heap;

f. 147, Marginal vignette, Betrayal of Christ.

This Book of Hours was produced c. 1510-20 by an artist of the circle of the Master of the Missal of Raoul du Fou, active in Rouen c. 1480-1530. Members of this workshop are well known for their inventive and intricate frames, decorated with tiny statuesques and colorful figurines. The garland spreading on either side of the architectural frames is a motif widely diffused by Jean Pichore from the 1500s onward and especially common in the 1510s. The style of the miniatures also matches that of the Master of Raoul du Fou, although it is far from being identical and is best compared to works from members of his workshop such as Books of Hours made for the Use of Rouen in the Bibliothèque national de France (BnF MS Arsenal 431) (fig. 1), the Fitzwilliam Museum (MS 120) (fig. 2), and the British Library (Sloane MS 2732B). Although this manuscript does not share any of the specific models used and reused in the workshop of the Raoul du Fou Master, it was likely made by an artist of their circle.

The thirteen large illuminations are enclosed by rich architectural frames painted in gold and adorned with figures, putti, and mythical creatures. Eleven of these miniatures are accompanied by smaller scenes nestled into the base of the frame. These images embellish the larger and more standardized scenes above with related narrative episodes. The Nativity (52v), for instance, illustrating Prime for the Hours of the Virgin, is complemented with a small scene of the Angels’ Annunciation to the Shepherds announcing the birth of Christ. The Nativity story then continues in a larger scene of the Annunciation to the Shepherds (58v), illustrating Terce, which is supplemented by a small image of the Shepherds’ Adoration of Christ. The coupling of large and small miniatures in this way is unusual in medieval Books of Hours. Also notable is the quite rare pairing of the Annunciation to the Virgin with the Meeting at the Golden Gate set in the lower part of the miniature, which also appears in British Library Sloane MS 2732B illuminated in the workshop at an earlier date (fig. 3). This association highlights the sinless nature of the Annunciation by comparing it directly to the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, a popular devotion in early sixteenth-century Rouen. 

Other scenes of special interest include a rare miniature at the beginning of the Office of the Dead depicting Lazarus and Dives from Luke 14:19-27. The rich man sits at a table dressed in a splendid robe painted with liquid gold, while Lazarus the pauper stands opposite with his arm raised in warning. A flaming demon appears in the upper right corner of the frame, poised to seize Dives for purgatory. The vignette below depicts Job on the Dung Heap, a more common illustration for the Office of the Dead. Two cadavers, acting as memento mori, inhabit the right-hand column of the frame, staring across the illustration toward their living doubles painted opposite on the left-hand column. Collectively, the images express the transience of wealth and good fortune and emphasize the sudden and inevitable approach of death. 

We are grateful to Elliot Adam for expertise.

Literature

Unpublished. On the Master of the Master of the Missal of Raoul du Fou see:

Adam, Elliot. “Retour sur l’œuvre de Robert Boyvin, enlumineur à Rouen vers 1500,” in Peindre à Rouen au XVIe siècle, ed. Frederic Elsig, 101-120, Milan, 2017, p. 114 and no. 12.

Blanquart, François. “Le Missel de Raoul du Fou,” Société des Amis des Arts du Département de l’Eure: Album Artistique et Archéologique 4 (1912), pp. 27-42.

Delaunay, Isabelle. “Le manuscrit enluminé à Rouen au temps du cardinal Georges d’Amboise: L’œuvre de Robert Boyvin et de Jean Serpin,” Annales de Normandie 45.3 (1995), pp. 211-244, p. 222.

BOH 185

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