(France [probably Besançon]: 3rd quarter of 15th century). Leaf: 239 x 165 mm. (9 3/8 x 6 1/2"). Frame: 365 x 275 mm. (14 3/8 x 10 7/8"). Single column, recto with four lines (beneath the miniature) in an elegant gothic book hand.

In a handsome gilt frame. Recto with rubrics in dark pink, one three-line initial in blue with white tracery, decorated with painted vines and on a gold ground, with A HALF-PAGE MINIATURE OF ST. MARK accompanied by his evangelist symbol (a lion with a nimbus and wings), in a thin, arch-topped gilt frame, SURROUNDED BY A THREE-QUARTER RINCEAU BORDER consisting of many hairline vines terminating in gold bezants and ivy, colorful acanthus, berries, a flower arrangement in a vase, and several other kinds of single flowers and floral sprays. Vellum lightly soiled and slightly cockled in places, trivial chipping to some very small areas of paint, additional imperfections of no significance; on the whole, a richly painted miniature in especially pleasing condition.

With a pleasing palette, many fine details, and handsome decoration, this splendid leaf from an especially large Book of Hours opens the second Gospel Lesson with a depiction of Mark accompanied by his attribute the lion. As Roger Wieck eloquently states, the Gospel Lessons "offered one of the very few ways that late medieval Christians could actually possess the New Testament word of God (households did not own Bibles). . . . Appearing at the front of the Book of Hours, they form its foundation, the legitimizing structure upon which the rest of the prayers that follow are built. They helped, too, transform for its possessor the Book of Hours from a collection of texts into a sacred object." ("Painted Prayers," p. 40) The artist of the present miniature emphasizes Mark's role as an author of the Gospels by prominently displaying an open codex upon a lectern; another codex--closed and in a binding of blue and gold--sits on the floor and is fiercely guarded by the lion sitting at Mark's feet. Seemingly caught in a moment of reflection, Mark gently touches the nimbus of the lion in an acknowledgement of the important task he has just completed. The emotion apparent in Mark's face and the careful attention paid to the manes of both man and beast is technically excellent, and the artist shows a great flair for design and color in the overall composition--an extremely pleasing combination of textures, patterns, and objects is executed with bold hues and strong lines. Stylistically, this leaf can be localized to the Franche-Comté region in eastern France, and is closely related (if not directly attributable) to an atelier specializing in Books of Hours made for the Use of Besançon and most likely situated in that city (see Avril and Reynaud p. 197). The similarities are especially apparent in the figures' faces, which are slightly puffy in appearance and have distinct, slit-like eyes. As noted by Avril and Reynaud, the unnamed master of this atelier was deeply indebted to the Master of Morgan 293, a talented Burgundian illuminator active in the second quarter of the 15th century, whose name derives from a particularly lovely Book of Hours made for the Use of Besançon. Although our Mark miniature varies from its Morgan counterpart in terms of composition, it nonetheless presents an excellent opportunity to compare the faces of each Evangelist. The similarities are immediately recognizable; each figure shows the same furrowed brow (the eyebrows appearing as squiggles), and very similar lidded eyes, straight noses, and frowning mouths with a slightly puffed cheek. Regardless of the identity of the artist, our miniature is an excellent example of a distinct regional style and offers the viewer multiple sources of pleasure in its richly detailed interior and attractive design, delicately framed and perched within a field of animated rinceau decoration in the surrounding borders.

Keywords: Book of Hours

Add to Cart Price: $8,000.00

PJP Catalog: 79.017