Book of Hours (use of Rouen)
FINE EXAMPLE OF ROUEN ILLUMINATION FROM THE CIRCLE OF MASTER OF ROUEN ECHEVINAGE
This beautiful Book of Hours is a fine example of Rouen illumination, decorated within the circle of the Master of the Rouen Echevinage, the leading artist in the city in the second half of the fifteenth century. The eight miniatures of the manuscript are surrounded with rich floral borders, with generous sprouts of gold and blue acanthus and stupendously lifelike depiction of birds. The same artist illuminated another Book of Hours for the use of Rouen now in the Houghton Library. This Book of Hours was evidently produced for a patron living in Rouen, for the calendar feasts and the liturgical texts are perfectly suited to the local cults of the city.
ii (paper) + 141 + ii (paper) leaves, complete, collation impracticable, 15 lines, ruled space: 94 x 66mm, rubrics in red, illuminated initials and line-ﬁllers throughout, larger initials accompanied by partial borders, 8 large miniatures with full borders (lower corners of ﬀ.1and 140 repaired, the ﬁrst miniature a little smudged and darkened, especially to faces, verso of ﬁnal leaf with traces of adhesion to an earlier binding not aﬀecting text). Early 20th-century brown paneled morocco, spine gilt (slightly rubbed). Dimensions 176 x 128 mm.
1. The style of illumination indicates that the manuscript was produced in Rouen. The calendar includes every local feasts for Rouen: the Translation St Anne on 30 January, St Sever on 1 February, St Ausbert on 9 February, St Hugue on 9 April, St Ouen on 5 May, St Godard on 8 June, St Ursin on 12 June, the Translation of St Romanus on 17 June, St Marcial on 3 July in gold, St Cler on 18 July, the Translation of St. Sauveur on 6 August in gold, St Evod on 8 October, St. Nigaise on 11 October, St Mellon on 22 October, St Romanus on 23 October in gold, St. Laurens on 14 November, and St. Ursin on 30 December.
2. A sixteenth-century inscription was added to lower margins on ff. 1, 12v, 94v, and 141v; it reads: “Paenissiez RR de Marac.”
3. George Becher Blomfield (1801-1885), of Mollington Hall, canon of Chester Cathedral: his armorial bookplate.
4. Bonhams, 28 March 2006, lot 96.
ff. 1-12v, Calendar in French, use of Rouen, with saints in blue, red, and gold ink;
ff. 13-19, Gospels Sequences;
ff. 19-26v, Obsecro te; O intemerata;
ff. 27-75, Hours of the Virgin, use of Rouen; [f. 76], blank;
ff. 77-94v, Seven Penitential Psalms and Litanies;
ff. 95-98, Short Hours of the Cross;
ff. 99-101v, Short Hours of the Holy Spirit; [f. 102], blank;
ff. 103-132v, Office of the Dead, use of Rouen;
ff. 133-141v, Prayers and suffrages, in French.
f. 13, Saint John, Saint Luke, Saint Matthew, and Saint Mark;
f. 27, Annunciation;
f. 51, Nativity;
f. 65, Flight into Egypt;
f. 77, King David in Prayer;
f. 95, Crucifixion;
f. 99, Pentecost;
f. 103, Burial scene.
This manuscript was produced within the circle of the Master of the Rouen Echevinage, the leading illuminator active in Rouen c. 1450-1485 (see Rabel 1989; Avril and Reynaud 1993). The animated, short-necked figures, the decorative tapestries and the horizontally striated trees set against luminous green hillsides are all features of his workshop’s style. The eight miniatures illustrate subjects according to models commonly found in his production, such as the divided miniature introducing the Gospels with the four Evangelists in four compartments (f. 13). Also characteristic of this workshop is the depiction of King David kneeling in prayer in front of a canopied throne (f. 77), with his harp leaning against a cabinet on which lays is crowned hat, as he sees the angel with a drawn sword extended over Jerusalem. Similar examples include the miniature of David in Prayer in one of the Master of the Rouen Echevinage’s late works (Paris, BnF, MS lat. 18030, f. 67: fig. 1).
The same artist illuminated another Book of Hours also for the use of Rouen, now in Cambridge, Mass. (Harvard University, Houghton Library, MS Typ 578; Wieck 1983, p. 137). Although based on a similar layout, the floral borders of the present manuscript are much more detailed, especially so in the generous sprouts of gold and blue acanthus leaves and the stupendously lifelike depiction of the birds surrounding the Annunciation (f. 27). These features suggest a later date for the illumination of the present Book of Hours. Both manuscripts are adorned with large miniatures that are based on similar models, such as the Evangelists, the Nativity, and the Flight into Egypt (f. 13, 51, 65; fig. 2-4). These compositions clearly derive from the Master of the Rouen Echevinage’s own repertoire, as is demonstrated by the comparison of the Nativity of this Book of Hours (f. 51) with that of the Hours of Chretienne de France, illuminated by the Master of the Rouen Echevinage (Paris, BnF, Arsenal, MS 562, f. 45v).
The female types with rounded eyebrows and straight nose, the male figures with wrinkled foreheads and protruding beard, and the overall intense and jewel-like palette of the miniatures are characteristics of the illuminator’s style. The starry-blue skies (f. 65, 95) and the male types with wrinkled foreheads may indicate a previous knowledge of the Master of Fastolf before his departure for England around 1450, to the circle of whom the Houghton manuscript has been tentatively attributed (Hamburger 2006, p. 5). Accordingly, the artist of the present manuscript would have been active in Rouen for quite a long time, before eventually emulating the style of the Master of the Rouen Echevinage in later manuscripts such as this one.
Previously known as the Master of the Geneva Latini, the Master of the Rouen Echevinage was renamed in 1989 after an impressive group of five historical manuscripts illuminated for the library of the aldermen (“échevins”) of Rouen (see Rabel 1989). This influential artist recruited many assistants to help him cope with the many commissions he received, among whom were the two illuminators of this frontispiece. In recent years, the Master of the Rouen Echevinage has been tentatively identified with Jean Coquet, one of the most successful librarians and illuminators of the period (see Blondeau 2014, p. 243). A member of an important family related to manuscript production, Jean Coquet rented a stall in the “cour des Libraires,” a courtyard set before the northern portal of the cathedral where librarians, illuminators, scribes, and bookbinders usually met their clients and sold their merchandise in late-fifteenth-century Rouen (Beaurepaire 1909). Conveniently, the “cour des Libraires” was also adjacent to the library of the Rouen Echevinage, located on the north end of the cathedral Notre-Dame.
Unpublished; further literature see:
F. Avril and N. Reynaud, Les Manuscrits à peintures en France, 1440-1520, Paris, 1993, pp. 169-173.
C. de Beaurepaire, “Les Boutiques du portail des Libraires,” Derniers mélanges historiques et archéologiques concernant le département de la Seine-Inférieure et plus spécialement la ville de Rouen, 1909, pp. 161-177.
C. Blondeau, Le Vitrail à Rouen, 1450-1530. “ L’escu de voirre “, Rennes, 2014.
J. Hamburger (ed.), Picturing Prayer. The Book of Hours in the Middle Ages, Cambridge, Mass., 2006.
C. Rabel, “Artiste et clientèle à la fin du Moyen Âge. Les manuscrits profanes du Maître de l’Échevinage de Rouen,” Revue de l’Art, 84, 1989, pp. 48-60.
R.S. Wieck, Late Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Houghton Library, 1350-1522, Cambridge, Mass., 1983.
Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University, Houghton Library, MS Typ 578, illuminated by the same artist as the present manuscript: