(Northern Germany, almost certainly Hildesheim: 1524). 165 x 133 mm. (6 1/2 x 5 1/4"). Single column, 21 lines in a compressed chiselled calligraphic bâtarde hand.

A full brushed gold border on each side with stylized plants and flowers and a small bird, ONE SIDE INHABITED BY A VERY CHARMING CHERUB WITH A BOW AND ARROW. Two borders trimmed close (without loss), the most trivial erosion of pigment, otherwise in fine condition, the gilt, paint, and vellum still quite fresh.

This leaf comes from an unusual German Renaissance manuscript containing a composite text for use at Mass and other services, with the Hours of the Passion, a ferial psalter, Psalms for use at Vespers, the Office of the Conception of Mary, and miscellaneous prayers to the Virgin. Dated 1524 in two places, this highly personalized manuscript bore the arms of Mansfeld, a prominent family from northern Germany, and it may have been executed for Albert, count of Mansfeld (1480-1560). The fact that it contained a miniature of This lovely leaf comes from a very fine illuminated Missal perhaps made at Neubourg Abbey in Alsace. Even though the Cistercians typically eschew lavish decoration in their manuscripts, the connection with the order is confirmed in the present case by the punctus flexus punctuation and by the presence of the Cistercian monk in his distinctive white habit with black scapular (a figure also appearing in other miniatures known to have been part of the manuscript represented here). This was one of four leaves from the same manuscript auctioned at Sotheby's as lot #8 on 5 December 1995. A leaf from the Mass of Corpus Christi had a miniature depicting four Cistercian monks in the Procession of the Holy Sacrament, and the leaf containing the Introit for the Nativity of St. Bernard of Clairvaux shows that founder of the Cistercian order preaching to a group of his monks. It is notable that the Mass is not for St. Bernard's regular feast day of August 20, but for his nativity--something that would be more likely to be celebrated by the order he founded. The provenance of Neubourg Abbey is suggested by the presence of the abbey's arms--sable, with double tower argent--in the border of a page from the feast of Epiphany. The Rhineland style of illumination seen here accords with the Abbey's location in Alsace. Founded in the early 1130s by Count Reinhold of Lützelburg, Neubourg Abbey had a library of more than 500 manuscripts at the time of its suppression following the French Revolution; none of these has ever been traced. The decoration here is pleasingly symmetrical, and the rinceaux borders are light and airy, with the whimsical inhabitants adding charm. The miniature has wonderful small details, most particularly the beatific expression on the face of the monk as he kneels in awe before the Madonna and Child, and the very realistic folds of his habit. The sky above the gray stone wall encircling the garden is filled with swirling gilt tracery that seems to emanate from the serene Virgin. In keeping with the delicate nature of the illumination, the scribal hand here is elegant and slender. St. Godehard, bishop of Hildesheim (d. 1038), suggests that it may have been produced at that location, an important bishopric and center of artistic activity at the time. Subsequently, the manuscript belonged to the Comte d'Aspremont-Lynden. It was sold at Sotheby's as lot 100 on 23 June 1987 and was afterwards broken up. The borders here are the source of considerable charm, containing a wide range of botanical species, highly stylized and extremely pleasing; the recto decoration is especially charming, inhabited by an unclothed cherub aiming a taught bow and arrow at the bird in flight above him.
(ST9378-10c)

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PJP Catalog: 75.023

FROM A. PSALTER AND PRAYER BOOK IN LATIN AN ILLUMINATED VELLUM MANUSCRIPT LEAF WITH INHABITED BORDERS.