This delightful, small Prayer Book is stylistically close to the Master of Nicholas von Firmian. It is similar to two other vernacular prayer books painted by this master around the same time for wealthy upper-class patrons. Notable for its many vibrant miniatures and borders, it is also interesting for its extensive repertory of prayers and other texts in Dutch and Latin.
iii (modern paper) + 132 + iii (modern paper) folios on parchment, modern foliation in pencil, 1-132, complete (collation i6 ii-xv8 xvi6 xvii8), no catchwords or signatures, ruled in red ink (justification 72 x 50 mm.), written in brown ink in gothic cursive bookhand (bastarda) in a single column on 15 lines, rubrics in red, 1- to 4-line initials in gold on dark pink grounds throughout (ff. 95-end on red grounds), matching line endings in gold on dark pink/red grounds, two large (4- to 5-line) initials in blue with white penwork on red and ochre grounds with penwork in gold, FIFTEEN SMALL MINIATURES (7-LINES HIGH) AND TWO FULL-PAGE MINIATURES WITHIN FULL OR THREE-QUARTER BORDERS in southern Netherlandish style (“strewn borders”) with birds, butterflies, birds, fruit, flowers, and acanthus leaves, an intertwined trees border on f. 7, very small tears in the lower margins of ff. 8, 15, 16 with discreet modern repairs, some illuminations rubbed with loss of pigments, lacking the upper corner of the illuminated border on f. 101, skillfully repaired, trimmed very close in the upper margin with slight loss of the illuminated border on some pages, some stains, but in overall good condition. Bound in the nineteenth century in dark brown calf over pasteboards, covers blind-tooled with a central panel with the Tree of Jesse within a border enclosing the inscription “Egredietur virga de radice Jesse, et flos de radice eius ascendet: et requiescet super eum.” (There will come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: and the spirit of the Lord will rest upon him; Is. 11:1-2), spine with raised bands blind-tooled with fleurs-de-lys, pastedowns and flyleaves in brown silk, gilt edges, modern fitted case, leather slightly rubbed, lower cover slightly soiled, the joint of the upper cover slightly splitting, otherwise in very good condition. Dimensions 112 x 83 mm.
1. The manuscript was painted in Flanders around 1500 (see the discussion below). The calendar is typical of use in southern Netherlands, with inclusions in red of St. Bavo of Ghent (1 October), St. Donatien of Reims (14 October), whose relics were in Bruges, St. Nicasius of Reims (14 December), St. Remigius of Reims (1 October) and St. Amand of Maastricht (6 February), the last three venerated widely in Belgium and northern France. The inclusion of prayers to St. Quirinus of Neuss (f. 62v), the patron saint of knights, might suggest that the manuscript was made for a knight. The language of the text indicates that the manuscript was made for a Dutch-speaking patron. The prayer to St. Corijn (Quirinus) is for male use.
2. Several prayers added in the sixteenth and seventeenth century on the blank leaves ff. 99v, 118-132, by two different hands; in the lower margin of f. 99 is a rubric (“een verdie[n]stelic ghebbet tot maria de hemelsche coninghine”) for the prayer on the verso: f. 99v “O schoone soete maria keiserine ende coningine….”
ff. 1-6v, Calendar;
ff. 7-11v, Prayer lamenting the death of Christ, incipit, “Een schoon ghebet ende lamentacie tot Christum (spelled as “xpristum”). O scepper des hemelrijcx...” (O creator of (the kingdom of) Heaven);
ff. 12-19, Prayers for the Holy Sacrament and Christ, incipit, “Dit es een bedijnghe van den heilighen sacremente ende heet int latijn. Ave domine Ihesu Christe verbum patris. Ic groete hu heere Ihesu Christe...”; with the Seven Words of Christ on the Cross beginning on f. 15; [f. 19v, blank];
ff. 20-28, Mass for the Holy Trinity, incipit, “Hier beghint die messe van der helegher drievoudicheyt...”;
ff. 28v-34, Prayer to the Virgin Mary, incipit, “Dits een ghebet van Maria. O soete Maria moeder Gods...”; the rubric for this prayer is on ff. 28v-29v; the prayer (as indicated in the final line of the rubric) is a translation of the Obsecro te;
ff. 34v-36v, Seven Prayers of St. Gregory (in Dutch);
f. 37r-v, Salve Regina(in Dutch);
ff. 37v-39, Eight Verses of St. Bernard of Clairvaux (in Dutch); [f. 39v, blank];
ff. 40-58v, Fifteen prayers of St. Bridget, preceded by a long rubric (ff. 40-43), incipit, “Sinte Brigida eeneghe bruit [Bride?] Christi welke die besloten was te Rome in Sinte Pauwels kercke [Saint Paul Outside the Walls] begheerde te wetene tghetal van den wonden ons Heeren Ihesu Christi daghelicx biddende ... tghelich cruce dat onze lieven Heere haer dat openbaren..”; f. 43v, incipit, “O heere Ihesu Christe euweghe zoeteit den ghuenen die hu minnen bliscepe bovengaende alle bliscepen...”; (O Lord Jesus Christ, eternal sweetness to those who love you, joy surpassing all joys);
ff. 59-66v, Prayers and suffrages of All Saints, St. John the Baptist, St. Sebastian, St. Roch (invoked for protection against the plague), St. Cornelius, St. Corijn (= St. Quirinus) (invoked for protection against the plague, smallpox and gout), St. Job, guardian angel (“Een ghebet van den goeden inghel. O heilighe inghel…”), St. Anne, St. Catherine, and St. Barbara;
ff. 67-94v, Miscellaneous prayers and short devotional readings (“leeringhen”);
ff. 95-99, Extract from the Gospel of St. John, followed by a Mass, in Latin;
f. 99v, Originally blank, added prayer in Dutch copied in the sixteenth century; [f. 100, blank];
ff. 100v-112, Seven Penitential Psalms in Latin;
ff. 112-117v, Litanies in Latin;
ff. 118-132, originally blank, added prayers in Dutch copied in the sixteenth and seventeenth century; [f. 132v, blank].
Two full-page miniatures:
f. 43v, Crucifixion;
f. 100v, Last Judgement.
Fifteen smaller miniatures:
f. 30, Pietà;
f. 34v, Mass of St. Gregory;
f. 37v, St. Bernard of Clairvaux;
f. 59, All Saints;
f. 60v, St. John the Baptist;
f. 61, St. Sebastian;
f. 61v, St. Roch;
f. 62, St. Cornelius pope, with papal tiara, staff, and horn;
f. 62v, St. Quirinus;
f. 63, St. Job;
f. 63v, Guardian angel with a male patron;
f. 64, St. Anne;
f. 65, St. Catherine;
f. 66, St. Barbara;
f. 95, St. John on Patmos.
On f. 7, there is an intertwined trees border; for this motif, see As-Vijvers, 2013, chapter 3.7.
Our manuscript bears a strong resemblance to two small prayer books written in Dutch in cursive script and illuminated at the workshop of the Firmian Master, one now in Utrecht, Catharijneconvent, MS StCC h4 (fig. 1; see As-Vijvers, 2018), and another, of which current location is unknown but which was included in a 1991 Tenschert catalogue (fig. 2; see König, 1991). The styles of the illumination and script are similar, and the dimensions of the three Prayer Books are essentially identical, suggesting that they were perhaps made around the same time (justification 74 x 48 mm. (Utrecht), 75 x 50 mm. (Tenschert), 72 x 50 mm., the Prayer Book described here). Our manuscript originally included 117 folios in total (in comparison with 76 and 67 folios in the Utrecht and Tenschert Prayer Books respectively), and its textual contents are significantly richer, with the inclusion of additional readings and texts in Latin. The Utrecht Prayer Book was probably a wedding present for a couple in Antwerp (cf. As-Vijvers 2018, p. 292); the Tenschert Prayer Book can be dated by its calendar table to be intended for use from 1498 (König 1991).
The Firmian Master was named after a Book of Hours commissioned in Flanders by the Austrian courtier, Nikolaus von Firmian (d. 1510) (Berlin, Staatsbibliothek, MS 241), and is known also through another large format book of hours today in the Morgan Library (New York, Morgan Library and Museum, MS M. 1170; see Online Resources). Although the painting in our manuscript is quite similar to this Master’s work, it is not by his hand and is probably by an illuminator working in his circle. Our artist shares the virtuosity of the Firmian Master, with the small format, the design of the borders, and the qualities as a colorist. The localization of the Firmian Master is difficult, but as Eberhard König argued, the difference of his style from the Bruges-based Master of Prayer Books of around 1500 and the relation of his art with Ghent panel painting, suggest that he was probably active in the vicinity of Ghent (König 1991, p. 452). Stylistic comparisons suggest that our illuminator was based in either southern-west Flanders or around Antwerp.
We are grateful to Anne Margreet As-Vijvers and Dominique Vanwijnsberghe for their helpful comments.
As-Vijvers, A. M. W. Re-Making the Margin: The Master of the David Scenes and Flemish Manuscript Painting around 1500, Turnhout, 2013.
As-Vijvers, A. M. W. “No. 79. Prayer Book,” in Splendour of the Burgundian Netherlands: Southern Netherlandish Illuminated Manuscripts in Dutch Collections, eds. A. M. W. As-Vijvers and A. S. Korteweg, Zwolle, 2018, pp. 292-3, 372.
König, E. “No. 26. Ein Gebetbuch samt Kalender für 1498 mit köstlichen kleinen Miniaturen des Firmian-Meisters,” in E. König, Leuchtendes Mittelalter III. Das goldene Zeitalter der burgundischen Buchmalerei, 1430-1560: Sammlung Carlo de Poortere u.a., Katalog Heribert Tenschert 27, Rotthalmünster, 1991.
New York, Morgan Library and Museum, MS M. 1170