(Flanders, perhaps Tournai: ca. 1480). 168 x 124 mm. (6 5/8 x 4 7/8"). 105 leaves (three of them blanks), single column, 18 lines to the page, in a quite regular and pleasing gothic book hand; lacking one calendar leaf (September/October), otherwise complete.
Modern red velvet, in a fine red morocco folding box with gilt lettering. Rubrics in red, a great many one-line initials either in burnished gold or blue (both with penwork embellishment), quite a number of two-line (and a handful of four- and five-line) initials in burnished gold on a blue and pink ground with white tracery, a total of 21 VERY LARGE INITIALS (six or seven lines high) ALWAYS ACCOMPANIED BY A FULL OR THREE-QUARTER BORDER of acanthus, fruit, and burnished gold ivy leaves, EIGHT VERY CHARMING HISTORIATED INITIALS, AND FOUR FULL-PAGE MINIATURES (the historiated initials accompanied by one of the three-quarter borders mentioned above, and the miniatures always with a facing page containing one of the full borders as well as a seven-line initial). Two of the blanks ruled, the other one with inch-long Medieval stitching to close up a hole in the middle of the vellum leaf. Many leaves with faint dampstain along half inch at the edge of the bottom margin (and very near the end, up the fore margin as well), with consequent minor rumpling, a vague hint of soiling from use, otherwise only quite minor defects: in general A VERY WELL-PRESERVED MANUSCRIPT, the thick vellum quite bright, and the paint and gold virtually without any erosion.
This Book of Hours was not commissioned by a great family or done by the best artists of the period, but it is a perfect reflection of the piety embraced by a 15th century Flemish household with sufficient means to employ a workshop capable of producing scenes that deepened their religious experience and that provide considerable charm and aesthetic interest for us today. The full-page miniatures here are of the Coronation of the Virgin, the Annunciation, David at prayer, and a funeral Mass. The historiated initials show the Madonna and Christ Child, Michael the Archangel doing battle with the Devil, John the Baptist in his hair shirt, Saint George slaying the dragon, Saint Anthony outside his hermitage, Saint Christopher ferrying the Christ Child, Saint Catherine with her wheel, and Saint Barbara reading by her bath-house. The full-page miniatures are probably by two different artists (the one who did the Annunciation, David, and the funeral scene being more gifted than the Coronation artist), and the painter of the historiated initials seems likely to have been a third person because his initials have a greater liveliness, assurance of line, and general level of sophistication than the others. Next to the more naïve scenes of the other two artists, Saint George in his brilliantly reflective and minutely detailed armor represents not just a triumph over the dragon, but also a charming and impressive achievement in a small space. The full-page miniatures are blank on the reverse and would have been inserted, as was typical of Flemish and Netherlandish Books of Hours during the 15th century. The appearance in the Calendar of Saint Eligius on the 25th of June strongly suggests that the manuscript came from Flanders and perhaps from Tournai, the religious capital of Flanders for more than 1,000 years (from 496 to 1559). And the Netherlandish Use has been determined here by Falconer Madan's localization tests (based on the forms of the Antiphon and Capitulum in Prime and None). (ST12887)
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PJP Catalog: 70.488