(France [probably Besançon]: 3rd quarter of 15th century). 239 x 165 mm. (9 3/8 x 6 1/2"). Single column, 15 lines in an elegant gothic book hand.

Rubrics in dark pink, line-enders in dark pink and blue highlighted with a gilt bezant, several one-line initials and one two-line initial in burnished gold on dark pink and blue ground with white tracery, one three-line initial in blue with white tracery, filled with flowers painted red or blue, all on a gold ground, verso with panel border of delicate hairline vines terminating in gilt bezants and ivy and a blue and gold acanthus, recto with A HALF-PAGE MINIATURE OF THE FLIGHT INTO EGYPT in a thin, arch-topped gilt frame, the Virgin and Child on an ass led by Joseph, the background composed of a variety of rocks, crags, and trees, with battlements on the horizon, SURROUNDED BY A FULL BORDER consisting of hairline vines terminating in gold bezants and ivy, colorful acanthus, and a variety of flowers, the text below the miniature further framed by a "U"-shaped bar of gold, pink, and blue extending the full height of the miniature. Lower outer corner repaired with later vellum (well away from border), the same corner slightly creased, a dozen very small dark specks on Joseph's robe (and apparently just perceptible on the Virgin's), otherwise only the most trivial imperfections, and the miniature still fine on the whole, with bright colors, glistening gold, and well-preserved details.

Featuring a bright color scheme, an elaborately detailed outdoor setting, and pleasing compositional elements, this is a splendid miniature from a particularly large Book of Hours, with a strong sense of emotion communicated on the faces of the Holy Family fleeing to safety. In this depiction of the Flight into Egypt (the traditional biblical scene accompanying Vespers), the Virgin, seated upon an ass and draped in a long, blue robe lined with gold, holds a tightly swaddled Christ Child; leading the party is Joseph, who appears on foot with a walking stick in one hand and balancing a bindle, slung over his shoulder, with the other. The placement of Joseph’s feet indicates the beginning of some steep terrain, and he glances back at the Virgin and Child with fatherly concern. The diagonal composition of the figures here shows a clear hierarchy, with the Virgin in the highest and most prominent position, closely followed by the Christ Child, and then Joseph in the lowest position, his smaller stature accentuated by his bowed posture. The background is quite beautifully developed, featuring rocky outcrops, rolling hills, two walled citadels with turrets, and numerous trees and bushes scattered across the landscape. The burnished gold sun sits high in the sky, echoing the shining gold nimbuses of the Virgin and Child immediately below it, and highlighting the more subtle gilt detailing in the clouds and trees. 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. In fact, there are a number of compositional similarities between our miniature and the Flight into Egypt in Morgan MS 293, including the same diagonal placement of the figures (though with Joseph positioned behind the animal's head rather than in front), a tightly swaddled (almost mummy-like) Christ Child, garments in matching colors, and some similar background and landscaping choices, including the presence of peculiar miniature trees growing in the foreground. In addition to being an excellent representation of a distinct regional style, the present miniature is extremely attractive, with beautiful coloring and an unusually pleasing background that helps to set the scene and deepens the viewer's engagement with the biblical narrative.

Price: $8,500.00