From a Gorgeous Breviary Made for the Duke of Ferrara, and Later owned by the Rolls family in Wales

(Italy [Ferrara], 1441-48). 267 x 203 mm. (10 1/2 x 8"). Double column, 30 lines in a very fine rounded gothic hand (a few lines of text in the same hand, but smaller).

All three leaves in attractive mats. Rubrics in red, capitals touched in yellow, one-line initials in burnished gold with blue penwork embellishment or blue with red penwork, FOUR FINE TWO-LINE INITIALS IN BURNISHED GOLD on a blue or pink ground with white tracery, AND FOUR LOVELY ILLUMINATED BARS (two on each side) RUNNING THE LENGTH OF THE LEAF, three of them with a central plant knot AND SPROUTING IN UPPER AND LOWER MARGINS CLUSTERS OF FLOWERS AND LEAVES IN VARIOUS COLORS AS WELL AS GOLD BEZANTS with frenzied penwork, the other (located at the outer margin) with similar terminations at top and bottom, but with additional marginal clusters all along the bar and with a very fine modelled clump of acanthus leaves in pinks and blues at the center point of the bar. Except for the usual mounting traces and minimal trimming of the very tip of one bezant in the top margin, IN EXTRAORDINARILY FINE CONDITION, THE DECORATION ESPECIALLY BRIGHT AND FRESH.

The work here is executed with very great skill and delicacy and in sensitive Italianate colors, highlighted especially by spring green and pink. And it is not surprising that the present leaves are from a manuscript intended for a powerful aristocrat. The leaves come from the celebrated Breviary illuminated for the chapel of the Marquises of Este, rulers of Ferrara and Mantua, a manuscript commissioned by Leonello d'Este (duke of Ferrara from 1441-50). The d'Este family kept excellent records, and this manuscript is believed to be the Breviary done for Leonello by Giorgio d'Alemagna, Bartolomeo de Benincà, Guglielmo Giraldi and Matteo de' Pasti (See F. Toniolo, "La Miniatura a Ferrara dal Tempo di Cosmè Tura all'eredità di Ercole de' Roberti," 1998, pp. 19, 20, 76-77). The leaves here show subtle variations in the style of the illuminations, a result of work done by a team of artists doing variations on a theme. At one time in a Spanish library, the manuscript was brought to Britain during the Peninsular War and came to be owned by the Rolls family, later Lords Llangattock, of Monmouth in Wales, from whom it takes its name. By the time the work reached Britain, most of the miniatures had already been cut out. The Breviary sold at Christie's on 8 December 1958 (lot #190) to Goodspeed's of Boston, who broke it up. The intact first quire of 10 leaves was purchased by Philip Hofer and given to Harvard (cf. Wieck, "Late Medieval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts," p. 130 and fig. 74), and individual leaves appeared in 1967 in the catalogues of Folio Fine Art ("the quality of the leaves is extremely high"), Maggs Brothers ("of a very high quality"), and Alan Thomas ("of exquisite quality").

Keywords: Breviary

Priced at $4,000, $7,000, and $9,500, depending on decoration and condition.

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PJP Catalog: 70.242