TEXT FROM THE OPENING OF THE OFFICE OF THE DEAD.

(Northern France: ca. 1500). 135 x 95 mm. (5 3/8 x 3 3/4"). Single column, 22 lines in a bâtarde hand.

Rubrics in red, seven one-line initials in gold on red, blue, and brown grounds, one three-line initial painted red on blue ground with gold filigree, verso with border on one side, consisting of acanthus leaves and flowers, A FULL-PAGE MINIATURE DEPICTING BOTH A BURIAL AND A VIGIL, surrounded by an architectural frame, line fillers in red and blue, highlighted with gold, and one line filler resembling a tree branch. A bit of light soiling to bare vellum, sky with several small paint chips (appearing to be white clouds), very minor brown spot to fore edge, other trivial imperfections, but the paint still clean and bright, and the composition altogether pleasing.

Noteworthy for its artistry and arrangement, this unusual leaf opening the Office of the Dead provides the viewer with a pair of complementary scenes--a public burial and a private vigil--offering two different means of contemplation for the most somber section of the Book of Hours. Not only are the faces and figures beautifully realized here, but the space itself is also carefully constructed, utilizing familiar architectural forms and giving the viewer a real sense of what a Medieval burial/vigil would have looked like. Above the text is the larger miniature, depicting a group of tonsured and hooded monks performing the burial ritual, while two laymen lower a shrouded body into the ground. Below this miniature and the text is a secondary bas-de-page scene, cramped and crypt-like, with two completely hooded monks in dark robes sitting in front of a funerary casket, watching over the deceased before the funeral. The composition makes the most of this small space and stands in stark contrast to the open, green space of the courtyard above. In this way, the artist is inviting the viewer to enter the action and explore the different levels within it--both pictorially and spiritually--while providing a convincing backdrop for meditation.
(ST15082)