With Unusual Details of a Medieval Burial

TEXT FROM THE OFFICE OF THE DEAD.

(Coutances(?): ca. 1420). 170 x 114 mm. (6 3/4" x 4 1/2"). Single column, verso with 14 lines in a gothic book hand.

Attractively matted. Rubrics in red, pink and blue line fillers punctuated with gold, six one-line initials in gold on blue and pink ground, one three-line initial painted pink and filled with curling ivy on a gilt ground, A HALF-PAGE MINIATURE OF A FUNERAL PROCESSION SURROUNDED BY A FULL BORDER of colorful acanthus leaves and vine-stems with gold leaves, verso with a three-quarter border similarly decorated. A touch of mild soiling to vellum and gilt a tiny bit rubbed in places, vine-stem border on recto just barely grazed, but A FINE SPECIMEN, the gilt and color bright and well preserved.

Featuring unusual iconography and a pleasing array of colors with copious amounts of gold, the present leaf provides a high level of aesthetic enjoyment and was undoubtedly made for a patron of means. The depiction of a coffin in transit between the church and the graveyard is rarely found in other images opening the Office of the Dead; the young boy ringing bells at the head of the group, and the spade and hoe, laid out like a cross upon the open grave, are similarly uncommon elements. The black sky with gilt detailing, matching the cloth laid upon the coffin, is perhaps the most visually dynamic aspect here--a striking combination of the ostentatious and the somber. The parent manuscript from which this leaf comes was sold at Sotheby's in 1982 (and subsequently broken up). It was written for the Use of Coutances in Normandy, and its calendar contained several dates of importance to the region, including the dedication of the Coutances Cathedral, making it highly likely that the manuscript originated in this area. Beyond its unusual imagery and origins, this leaf is an excellent example of a high quality provincial manuscript whose owner would have valued (and could afford) fine quality work with conspicuous use of gilt. For example, in addition to the use of gold in the miniature, the border and initial are also heavily gilt, the former being composed of a thick three-quarter bar as well as rinceaux detailing. The visual delights of this leaf have not been dampened with time; the paint and gold have retained all their original vibrancy and give life to an otherwise solemn scene.
(ST15177)