(Low Countries [probably Bruges]: ca. 1460). the bifolium measuring 94 x 140 mm. (3 5/8 x 5 1/2"). Single column, 15 lines in an Italianate gothic rotunda.

Rubrics in red, one-line initials in blue or gold with red or blue penwork, two-line initials in gold on blue and gold ground, a splendid five-line initial painted blue with branchwork decoration on a gold ground, A FULL-PAGE DEMI-GRISAILLE MINIATURE depicting the Coronation of the Virgin within an arched compartment, WITH FULL BORDERS of acanthus leaves, flowers, vine-stems, and bezants, along with a charming bird in both full borders, all painted in a demi-grisaille fashion (the miniature with no text below and blank on the back). Red letters in the script a little faded, a series of small rust stains in the margin between the attached leaves, tiny moments of trivial soiling, but A BEAUTIFUL SPECIMEN, WITH CRISP DETAIL AND IN AN VERY FINE STATE OF PRESERVATION, with virtually no sign of erosion in the paint or gold.

This charming miniature was painted by an artist clearly indebted to Willem Vrelant (active in Bruges ca. 1454-81), but far better than most of his rather routine imitators. The various Vrelant-style artists have never been fully defined, in part probably because--as copious documentation reveals--he worked with family members and apprentices, who doubtless collaborated with him on manuscripts, and probably also on individual miniatures. This particular bifolium comes from a Book of Hours sold at Christie's in 1994 (and subsequently broken up before we obtained the bifolium), the description for which notes that it was "also containing possibly some of [Vrelant's] own work." The same description also suggests that the rounded Italianate style of script found here could indicate an Italian or Catalan patron (or perhaps a scribe with these connections). The present miniature depicts the Coronation of the Virgin within an architectural setting. Mary is shown kneeling upon a starry pillow with three angels attending her, and Christ enthroned in front of her. The grisaille technique used here also points to the skill and quality of the artist. Silver was a notoriously difficult color to deploy, and it was perfected by those artists in the Low Countries that were patronized by the Dukes of Burgundy. From the French word "gris," meaning "gray," grisaille refers to a style of monochrome painting, normally executed using a black pigment such as lampblack and an inert white pigment. The technique first appeared in the late 13th century and experienced its greatest period of popularity from the second half of the 14th through the end of the 15th century. Sometimes, as in the present case, naturalistic color (light browns and golds, pinks, blues, and even dashes of green and red on the textiles here) will be added, resulting in a technique called demi-grisaille.