TEXT FROM THE OPENING OF THE GOSPEL SEQUENCES.

(France, ca. middle of the 15th century). 229 x 165 mm. (9 x 6 1/2"). Single column, 17 lines in a fine, regular gothic book hand.

Rubrics in red, BOTH SIDES WITH AN INTRICATE THREE-QUARTER BORDER of swirling hairline stems bearing many burnished gold bezants, acanthus leaves, and other vegetation and blossoms (including, unusually, a large gourd in each border), THE RECTO WITH A PROMINENT SIX-LINE HISTORIATED "C" in blue and pink with white tracery, THE CENTER OF THE LETTER OCCUPIED BY THE ANGEL OF SAINT MATTHEW in a pink robe with blue wings and bearing a banderole with the saint's name, the initial outlined with thick burnished gold. Tiny smudge to head edge of border on recto, minor traces of previous mounting, a little rumpling to side margins, otherwise in very fine condition, quite clean, fresh, and bright, with generous margins and lustrous gold.

This attractively illuminated leaf comes from a Book of Hours with uncharacteristically large dimensions, and the decorators have made the right decision here to enlarge everything, rather than to pack additional material into the design. As a consequence, the historiated initial is relatively simple but features quite a large figure, there are fewer acanthus leaves than the borders could accommodate (though they are more robust), and the gourds stand out as especially striking elements that are closer to whopping than to diminutive. The scribal hand is also enlarged here, and the whole leaf gives the suggestion of a manuscript prepared for someone desiring the ostentation linked to an oversized presentation (or else for someone whose eyesight is not as good as it used to be).
(ST12637a)