(Rouen: ca. 1470). 190 x 132 mm. (7 1/2 x 5 1/8").  leaves (lacking a few leaves of text between ff. 40-41) , but all miniatures apparently present. Single column, 16 lines, in an elegant gothic book hand. Contents: Calendar in French (f. 1r); Gospel Lessons (f. 13r); Obsecro te and O Intemerata (f. 17v); [blank] (f. 24); Hours of the Virgin (f. 25r), Lauds followed by Suffrages to the Holy Spirit, St. Nicholas (starting imperfect), St. Catherine, and for Peace; Penitential Psalms (f. 59r); Litany (f. 68r); Hours of the Holy Cross (f. 72v); Hours of the Holy Spirit (f. 75v); [blank] (ff. 77v-78v); Office of the Dead (f. 79r); The Quinze Joies [or: Fifteen Joys, in French] (f. 100v); The Sept Requêtes [or: Seven Requests, in French] (f. 105r); [blank] (f. 108).
Pleasing late 17th-century olive green morocco (uniformly faded to brown), covers gilt in panels with alternating decorative gilt rules, central oval device surrounded by daisy motifs and floral sprays, smooth spine with several decorative gilt rules (ties lacking). Ruled in red, rubrics in red (often in French), calendar with months, major feast days, and golden numbers in gold (other feast days in red or blue), numerous line enders in pink and blue with a single gold dot, many one-line initials in gold on blue or pink ground with white penwork, and two-line initials in pink or blue on gold ground, WITH 14 FULL PAGE MINIATURES AND 24 CALENDAR MINIATURES BY THE MAÎTRE DE L'ECHEVINAGE DE ROUEN AND HIS WORKSHOP, THE MINIATURES WITH FULL BORDERS composed of geometric shapes on a combination of painted gold and colored grounds, MANY WITH DROLLERIES HIDDEN IN THE BORDERS, ALL OTHER PAGES FEATURING A PANEL BORDER OF ACANTHUS LEAVES AND BOTANICAL ELEMENTS ON ONE OR BOTH SIDES; the miniatures including: The Four Evangelists in four quadrants of a single miniature (f. 13r); The Annunciation, the border with scenes in roundels: The Meeting of Joachim and Anna at the Golden Gate; The Virgin at the Loom; and the Marriage of Mary and Joseph (f. 25r); The Visitation (f. 33r); The Nativity (f. 42r); The Annunciation to the Shepherds, with the unusual detail that one figure sits on a very low stool to play the bagpipes, and the border has a wolf(?) stealing a sheep (f. 46r); The Adoration of the Magi (f. 48v); Presentation (f. 51r); Flight into Egypt, with the Miracle of the Wheatfield in the background (f. 53v); Coronation of the Virgin (f. 55v); King David in Penitence (f. 59r); Crucifixion (f. 72v); Pentecost (f. 75r); Last Judgment (f. 79r); The Virgin and Child Enthroned, adored by a kneeling patroness (f. 100v). Front pastedown lifted at hinge revealing part of a 16th(?) century manuscript leaf on vellum; f. 1r with “La Jonchere” added by stencil (thus hard to date, but probably 17th- or 18th- century) perhaps referring to a family from this region of far-western France. Leather with general wear, but a very solid binding and not at all unpleasing. Occasional minor marginal stains or mild rumpling to vellum, small area of insignificant marginal brown staining to f. 33 (miniature of Visitation), silver gilding in illuminations a bit tarnished, occasional minor rubbing to paint and trivial imperfections elsewhere, but THE MANUSCRIPT IN EXCELLENT CONDITION, with the rich paint well preserved, and the whole within extremely comfortable margins.
This is an exceptionally lively and beautiful Book of Hours illuminated by a leading French atelier for a woman of obvious means, heavily illustrated with miniatures and extremely pleasing borders incorporating drolleries and related scenes. Rouen rivalled Paris as the center of illuminated manuscript production in the later 15th century, with particularly prolific output in the middle of the second half, when the present manuscript was produced. The dominant style was that of the so-called "Master of the Echevinage de Rouen" (also known as the "Master of the Geneva Latini"), an immensely popular and successful artist who took his name from several commissions he illuminated for the Echevinage (council of city aldermen) of Rouen. All the hallmarks of his style are here: pale-skinned women with oval heads on long necks framed by cascades of gilt-enhanced tresses, men with rugged faces shaded in tones of gray, draperies delicately hatched and cross-hatched with fine lines of liquid gold, backgrounds frequently including gilt brocade textiles, and landscapes depicted with an almost childlike simplicity and charm. By contrast, the panel borders are highly refined, and each displays a colorful arrangement of fruits, flowers, and acanthus leaves, while the borders around the miniatures show even greater variety. In fact, no two are the same: some seem to experiment playfully with color combinations (e.g., the attractive lozenges of acanthus around the Visitation), others utilize whimsical patterning (e.g., the quilted appearance of the Presentation and the visually appealing and extremely unusual S-shaped band of green scrolling leaves in the Flight); the majority incorporate amusing drolleries, grotesques, and animals. The most inventive and creative of these borders incorporate subsidiary scenes that are directly, or less overtly, connected to the main scene. For example, the Annunciation includes three roundel scenes from the Life of the Virgin, while the miniature of David in Penitence includes a large fountain suggesting the infamous story involving Bathsheba bathing. The central miniatures complement the overall look of the page beautifully; in addition to the obvious artistic skill involved in the composition, they display a pleasing color palette and the deft use of gold ink to pattern backgrounds and garments. The text was probably written with no particular client in mind (the contents are standard, and the "Obsecro te" and "O Intemerata" use masculine forms), but the volume was apparently illuminated for the lady who kneels in the final miniature, which opens the "Fifteen Joys of the Virgin," followed by the "Seven Requests to the Virgin," which may have had special significance for the owner in question. This is an enchanting Book of Hours, a joy for the eye, with a very substantial selection of visual delights, providing multiple sources of interest and pleasure. (ST14898)
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