A PRINTED VELLUM LEAF WITH A VERY FINE, EXTREMELY LARGE ILLUMINATED MINIATURE PAINTING OF THE MASSACRE OF THE INNOCENTS, FROM A BOOK OF HOURS IN LATIN.
TEXT FROM VESPERS.(Paris: Gilles Hardouin, 1510). 222 x 140 mm (8 3/4 x 5 1/2"). Single column, 30 lines of text, gothic typeface.
Attractively matted. Verso with elaborate metalcut compartmentalized border featuring mischievous putti and grotesques, the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, and a woman shearing a sheep; the same side with 18 one-line hand-painted initials in gold on a blue or red ground, two similar two-line initials, and one three-line foliated initial in gold on a red ground; recto WITH A RICHLY PAINTED AND ILLUMINATED WOODCUT OF THE MASSACRE OF THE INNOCENTS, with a glimpse of the flight into Egypt on the left side of the scene. A touch of wrinkling to lower outer corner, verso with remnants of mounting tape, otherwise A VERY FINE LEAF, the printing clear and fresh, the colors vivid, and the gold lustrous.
The massacre depicted here appears to be taking place in Herod's throne room, as if he had ordered it for his own entertainment. Seated in the center of the piece on a massive gold throne, he views the heartbreaking chaos before him impassively, ignoring an angry women who is lifting her bleeding infant up to him as if to say, "See what you've done!" The mothers here are not wailing in grief, but are angrily fighting for their sons' lives. In the foreground, a soldier pushes a golden-haired woman out of the way, in order to finish off the dazed and wounded infant she and her companion are attempting to shield. On either side, soldiers have raised swords to smite the helpless tots, and to the right of Herod, a bleeding infant looks pitifully up at the armored solder who holds him by the arm, ready to deliver the fatal blow. In the upper right, we see a baby impaled on a spear. A glimpse of hope through an open window mitigates the horror of the gruesome scene: we see Joseph leading a donkey bearing the Virgin and the Christ Child as they flee to Egypt, blessed by golden rays streaming down from heaven. The action here is dramatic, intense, and memorable; the colors are vivid, the heavy use of gold adding light to an overwhelmingly sober subject. The Book of Hours from which this leaf came must have been extraordinarily sumptuous. (ST11712)