Lovely Book of Hours by one of the most skilkful painters of his generation

This is an undoubtedly Parisian Book of Hours, and it is attributed to an artist in the circle of the Coëtivy Master, deemed "the most important artist practicing in Paris in the third quarter of the century." The inclusion of French prayers (or poems) and historiated initials for the virgin Saints Genevieve and Avia before the Hours of the Virgin and the richness of the borders hint that it could have been made to order as a commission. The borders are richly decorated with sprays and knots of acanthus and abundant flowers, fruits, and birds, with clusters of strawberries throughout.

iii (paper) + ii (parchment) + 147 + iii (paper), folios on parchment, complete, modern foliation in pencil starting on parchment flyleaf i, thereby numbering 149 folios (collation i12, ii-iv8, v5(i a singleton), vi-xiii8, xiv6, xv12, xvi-xviii8), vertical catchwords (some omitted), written in brown ink in cursive bookhand ("lettre bâtarde") on 15 lines (justification 91 x 69 mm.), prickings visible on some folios, ruled in red ink, rubrics in red and pink, with decorated line fillers, four 4- to 6-line penwork flourishes in red, a small penwork drawing of a man's head (f. 144v), fifteen 2- to 4-line initials and numerous 2-line initials in-filled with flowers and rinceaux, abundantly decorated margins with sprays and knots of acanthus and an abundant variety of flowers, flower buds, fruits, and birds, SIX 6-LINE HISTORIATED INITIALS, and FIFTEEN LARGE MINIATURES, three with heavy gold frames with alternating patterns of flowers, rinceaux, and blue orbs with red chevrons; some miniatures rubbed or with isolated losses of pigment, some folios with cockling, otherwise in excellent condition. Bound in 16th-century(?) brown morocco, the spine with four slightly raised bands, covers and spine gilt-tooled with repeating pattern of alternating closed and open flames, with attachment points for two clasps (both lost), some dampstaining to rear board and flyleaf. Dimensions 176 x 123 mm.


1. Copied in France and almost certainly in Paris, the calendar with important Parisian saints in gold and the Gospel sequences followed by prayers in French for Saint Genevieve ("Vierge franche de France née") and Saint Avis (Avoie). The rendering of faces and draperies, the decorative scheme of the borders, and the designs for the miniatures suggest the illuminations are by an artist in the circle of the Coëtivy Master established in Paris.

2. Late 16th-century(?) binding, with obscured inscription in a secretary hand on parchment pastedown underneath the rear paper pastedown. Unidentified watermark, front and rear flyleaves, probably also 16th century.

3. Richard de Lomenie, Paris, late 19th- or early-20th-century bookplate with arms and motto "Je maintiendray," with pasted-in circular label stamped "8."

4. Private North American Collection.


ff. 3r-14v, Calendar of Paris, in French, in red, gold, and blue, with a feast for every day of the year and with notable Parisian saints in gold, including Genevieve (Jan. 3), Yves (Ivo, May 23), Eloy (Eligius, June 25), Leu (Lupus) and Gille (Giles, Sept. 1), and Denis (Oct. 9).

ff. 15r-20v, Gospel sequence.

ff. 21r-24r, Obsecro te, with masculine forms.

ff. 24v-25v, French prayer to Saint Genevieve (with rubric on f. 24r) in octosyllabic couplets, beginning "Virge douce virge benigne, Vierge sancte virge tres digne…" and ending "vray repos en sa gloire" (Sonet 2314).

ff. 25v-27r, French prayer to Saint Avoie (Avis) in octosyllabic couplets, beginning "Sainte avoye v(ier)ge glorieuse, Amie de dieu fille et espouse…" and ending "Mon ame et p(ar)durable joye. Amen" (Sonet 1852).

ff. 27v-31v, ruled, but blank.

ff. 31r-85r, Hours of the Virgin.

ff. 85v-99v, Penitential psalms and litanies, including Saint Genevieve and Saint Claire (f. 98r).

ff. 100r-102v, Short Hours of the Cross.

ff. 103r-105v, Short Hours of the Holy Spirit.

ff. 106-107, ruled, but blank.

ff. 108r-137v, the Office of the Dead (with rubric Hic incipiunt vigilie mortuorum on f. 105v, at end of preceding quire).

ff. 138r-140v, the Seven Requests to Our Lord, in French, beginning "Doulz dieu doulz pere sainte trinite…" and ending "Que vray (con)fez puisse mouri."

ff. 141r-145r, the Fifteen Joys of the Virgin Mary, in French, beginning "Doulce dame de misericorde…" and ending "aient pardon et repos p(ar)durable. Amen."

ff. 146-149, ruled, but blank.


Fifteen large miniatures:

f. 15r, Saint John the Evangelist on Patmos (some losses of pigment, initial rubbed).

f. 31r, Annunciation (some losses of pigment, borders rubbed).

f. 55r, Visitation.

f. 65r, Nativity.

f. 69v, Annunciation to the Shepherds.

f. 72v, Adoration of the Magi (some losses of pigment, leaf cockled).

f. 75v, Presentation in the Temple (rubbed).

f. 78v, Flight into Egypt.

f. 81v, Coronation of the Virgin (slightly rubbed).

f. 85v, David in Prayer, shown outdoors with a circular lectern (slightly rubbed).

f. 100r, Crucifixion (rubbed, with losses of pigments, especially the body of Christ, with signs of use by the reader through repeated devotional touching or kissing).

f. 103r, Pentecost (some losses of pigment).

f. 108r, Burial in a Churchyard, with the officiating cleric asperging the deceased and a sexton lowering the shrouded corpse into the grave, with two hooded mourners behind (miniature slightly rubbed, borders rubbed).

f. 141r, Lamentation,

Six historiated initials:

f. 16v, Saint Luke (5 lines);

f. 18r, Saint Matthew (5 lines);

f. 19v, Saint Mark (5 lines);

f. 21r, Virgin and Child with an angel (5 lines);

f. 24v, Saint Genevieve with an angel lighting a candle and a demon attempting to snuff it out (5 lines; rubbed);

f. 25v, Saint Avia (Avoie) in a prison tower receiving communion from the Virgin Mary and an angel (5 lines; losses of white pigment);

The rendering of faces, modeling of draperies with hatches of liquid gold, and the designs of the miniatures suggest that the artist was working in the circle of the Coëtivy Master. The elaborate architectural spaces with vaulted ceilings and domes, hanging bosses, and windows with heavy mullions in silver gilt are comparable to miniatures from the Coëtivy Master's workshop. In addition, the heavy gold borders with alternating flowers is also indicative of the Coëtivy Master's style, itself derived from the artists trained by the Master of Dreux Budé. The sharply outlined faces with heavy eyelids and rosy cheeks in the Pentecost miniature (f. 103r) are the most expressive of our artist's hand. In some cases the schematic backgrounds and less evenly modeled faces are clearly not by the hand of the artist.

The Coëtivy Master (perhaps identified as Colin d'Amiens, active in Paris c. 1455 to c. 1485) and his workshop illuminated a great number of Books of Hours and created designs for printed books and tapestries. They were also responsible for some secular manuscripts and illuminated at least five copies of Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy (see J. Paul Getty Museum of Art, MS 42, 3 leaves)  The Coëtivy Master (fl. in Paris, c. 1455-1475) is named after a Book of Hours that includes the portraits and arms of Olivier de Coëtivy and his wife, Marie Marguerite de Valois (Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, MS1929). His vibrant colors, dense modelling, and atmospheric effects of light and shadow suggest that he was originally trained in Northern France or the Southern Netherlands. It was for this reason that Paul Durrieu in 1921 proposed to identify him with Henri de Vulcop; however, there is no evidence that Henri de Vulcop worked in Paris, as the Coëtivy Master did, so this identity was eventually rejected.  The Coëtivy Master is the direct successor of the Dreux Budé Master, named after a Triptych for Dreux Budé (now separated, in Los Angeles, Getty Museum; Montpellier, Musée Fabre; Bremen, coll. Bischoff). It has been suggested that the Dreux Budé Master is in fact André d'Ypres from Amiens who left Northern France before 1450 to work in Paris. His son Nicolas became famous under the name Colin d'Amiens: he might be the Coëtivy Master.

Avril and Renaud deemed him "the most important artist practicing in Paris in the third quarter of the century, from about 1450 to 1485" (Les Manuscrits à Peintures en France, p. 58). The large miniatures and gold borders in the present manuscript, although less refined, are comparable to those in a Book of Hours also for the use of Paris and with prayers to Genevieve and Avie (Paris, BnF, MS n.a.lat. 3115), attributed an anonymous artist working in the style of the Coëtivy Master (Damongeot-Bourdat 2013).

The fifteen large miniatures comprise a complete cycle for a Book of Hours, with the additional historiated initials and prayers for Saint Genevieve and Saint Avia indicating that it was made for the Parisian market. There are no portraits or coats of arm arms in its pages but the inclusion of the saints Genevieve and Avia and the richness of the borders hint that it could have been commissioned and made to order. The borders surrounding the large miniatures are richly decorated with vivid colors and an abundant variety of flowers and flower buds, sprays and knots of acanthus, fruits, and birds. Clusters of carefully modeled strawberries appear throughout, in one case adjacent to dark blue grapes in the borders surrounding the miniature for the Office of the Dead. The thin scrolling vines are gathered by gold rings in some borders (f. 123v, f. 126r, etc.), adding even more variety. Curiously, the border on one folio (134r, opening the second to last quire) appears in the gutter of the spine, on the wrong side of the page, perhaps revealing the workshop's method of painting the loose folios in gatherings before being bound.

This Book of Hours is also remarkable for its uneven signs of use. Some large miniatures and their borders are in pristine condition (such as the Lamentation, f. 141r, opening the Fifteen Joys of the Virgin Mary) while others have darkened borders and rubbing indicative of repeated handling. Two sections showing the most use are the Short Hours of the Cross (with Crucifixion miniature) and the Office of the Dead. It is clear the owner consulted these pages often, and very likely shed tears over their images, perhaps in times of mourning for family or friends.


Unpublished, see:

Avril, F., and N. Reynaud, Les Manuscrits à Peintures en France, 1430-1515, Paris, 1994, pp. 58-70.

Damongeot-Bourdat, M.-F., "La circulation des modèles iconographiques: L'example d'un livre d'heures Parisien (Bibliothèque nationale de France, n.a. lat. 3115)," in S. Hindman and J. Marrow, ed., Books of Hours Reconsidered, London, 2013, pp. 297-309.

Plummer, J. The Last Flowering: French Painting in Manuscripts, 1420-1530 from American Collections, New York, 1982.

Sonet, J., Répertoire d'incipit de prières en ancien français, Geneva, 1956.

BOH 168

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