Showing Two Female Saints: the Mother of John the Baptist and Our Protector against Rats and Mice


(Bruges, ca. 1465). 181 x 127 mm. (7 1/8 x 5"). Single column, 19 lines in a careful, pleasing gothic book hand.

In a very attractive new gilt wooden frame. Rubrics in pink (or faded red), one two-line initial in blue, magenta, and burnished gold, two lines with undulating line fillers in blue and gold, both sides of the leaf with a three-quarter panel border incorporating foliage, blossoms, and ivy leaves on hairline stems, the vertical part of this frame with a bar border composed of colors and burnished gold terminating at top and bottom in colorful acanthus leaves, and WITH TWO SMALL BUT VERY PLEASING MINIATURE PAINTINGS, SAINT ELIZABETH ON THE RECTO AND SAINT GERTRUDE ON THE VERSO. ◆Tiny worm(?)hole in fore edge (where it has done negligible damage), small portions of the blue paint in the Elizabeth miniature eroded (gray paint slightly smeared as well, but apparently at the time of painting), otherwise in fine, clean, fresh condition.

This leaf is characteristic work from the circle of Willem Vrelant, the leading purveyor of books of private devotion in Bruges during the third quarter of the 15th century. His leading position among Flemish illuminators of the time is indicated by the considerable number of manuscripts illustrated in his manner by other miniaturists both in Bruges and in nearby cities in Flanders. The illuminator of our Book of Hours shows a number of distinctive stylistic traits. Among these are a preference for boldly patterned cloth backdrops, tessellated flooring, landscapes filled with stylized bushes and trees, and persisting prominent architectural constructions that frame the subject, frequently in a corner (in these leaves, it is a waist-high outdoor wall or an indoor feature resembling wainscoting). The inclination for strong geometrical patterning is manifested in the artist's angular treatment of human figures and their garments. Dressed in pink and blue, Elizabeth is depicted with a sweet, round face. She is saluted here as the woman worthy to be the mother of John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Redeemer. Gertrude is dressed in monastic black, although a pink undergarment is visible, and her inky habit is trimmed in gold. This shimmering feature is a reminder that Gertrude (626-59) was the daughter of Pepin I of Landen, Mayor of the Palace for the Frankish realm of Austrasia and the forebear of Charlemagne. Gertrude is a natural choice for illustration by an artist of Bruges, since she was the patron of nearby Nivelles. The saint was routinely invoked for aid in coping with mice, and is here shown surrounded by four animated rodents as black as her habit. No legend survives to explain why she had such power over the creatures, who seem here to be more her pets (one climbs her staff of office) than her victims.

Price: $5,000.00