(Avignon, ca. 1320s). 323 x 230 mm. (12 3/4 x 9"). Single column, 22 lines of text in an attractive semi-rotunda book hand.

Rubrics in red, paragraph marks in blue, three one-line and two two-line initials in red or blue with penwork in the contrasting color, EACH SIDE WITH A BEAUTIFULLY REALIZED THREE-LINE HISTORIATED INITIAL WITH A BURNISHED GOLD BACKGROUND, that on the recto showing a bishop, accompanied by a tonsured monk, blessing an altar piled with grapes; that on the verso showing the bishop blessing vats of wine and loaves of bread, BOTH INITIALS WITH CURVING EXTENSIONS IN PINK, BLUE, AND BURNISHED GOLD THAT RUN THE LENGTH OF THE TEXT AND INTO THE MARGINS AT HEAD AND FOOT, TERMINATING IN PINK AND ORANGE IVY LEAVES ACCENTED WITH GOLD BEZANTS, THE EXTENSION ON THE RECTO WITH A SMALL BUT FIERCE ANIMAL HEAD PEERING AT THE INITIAL. Faint wrinkling to one edge, a few letters a bit faint, otherwise A VERY FINE LEAF, the vellum clean and bright, the margins generous, and THE RICH PAINT AND GLISTENING GOLD ENTIRELY INTACT.

From an impressive liturgical book that may have been commissioned by a moneyed bishop, this is an excellent example of very high quality 14th century French illumination, with impressive provenance. The work was apparently done by someone in the circle of the celebrated Master Jean Pucelle, at an early date for illumination in the Avignon region. The gold is laid on thickly, and the spiky gothic embellishments provide an impressive emphasis. In both of the historiated initials we see an orange-robed bishop with miter and crozier, blessing an altar and also the bread and wine that would be used for the Eucharist. The text is from a benediction, and the rubrics add directions for the sprinkling of holy water ("aspergatum cum aqua benedicta"). The wide margins--which have fortunately survived over the centuries--add to the impact of the leaf as well as to the sense of the wealth lavished on the production of the manuscript from which it comes. The parent manuscript was probably owned by the bibilophile Fernando Colón, aka Ferdinand Columbus (son of Christopher Columbus and passanger on one of his father's voyages to the New World). Despite early efforts to preserve the Biblioteca Colombina, as it is now known, the present collection retains only about half of the original inventory, and many of its manuscripts were partially dismembered in the 19th century and sold. About 30 individual leaves from the present work are known, with sister leaves in Berlin at the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (see "Katalog der Mittelalterlichen Handschriften und Einzelblätter in der Kunstbibliothek," no. 31, illustrated on p. 33), the Free Library of Philadelphia, the BNF, an the Museum of European Art, Tokyo. Another sister leaf, with one historiated initial, was item #63 in Sam Fogg's Catalogue 16 (1995, offered for £3,500). For a lengthier discussion of the parent manuscript, see François Avril, ‘Quelques éléments nouveaux relatifs à la production avignonnaise du temps du pape Jean XXII: À propos d’un pontifical de Guillaume Durand dépecé’, Cahiers de Fanjeux, 51, 2016.

Add to Cart Price: $12,500.00

PJP Catalog: 70.370