(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 a flower and trefoils painted red or blue, all on a gold ground, verso with panel border of delicate hairline vines terminating in gilt bezants and ivy and with a few painted flowers and leaves, recto with A HALF-PAGE MINIATURE OF THE VISITATION in an arch-topped gilt frame, the Virgin dressed in muted red with a dark blue cloak, Elizabeth dressed in bright red with a white headcloth, the two women surrounded by a landscape of trees and small hills, SURROUNDED BY A FULL BORDER consisting of hairline vines terminating in gold bezants and ivy, colorful acanthus, strawberries, and several different kinds of flowers, the text and image further framed by a "U"-shaped bar of gold, pink, and blue extending the full height of the miniature. Abrasion at the top of the leaf with about an inch of loss at the very top of the miniature (touching the sky and frame), the Virgin's blue cloak with a little mottling and flaking, large initial beneath miniature partially smudged and abraded, other minor imperfections, but still a powerfully attractive leaf despite its flaws, with wide margins, bright colors, and strong emotional appeal.
Reminiscent of the work of the Master of Morgan 293, this is a touching depiction of the Visitation, showing the tender moment when the Virgin meets with her older cousin Elizabeth and discovers that they are both with child. Elizabeth's advanced age is suggested by her stooped posture and the intricately wrapped cloth tied around her head and chin; in contrast, the youthful Virgin, who is noticeably pregnant, stands tall and statuesque, with her golden locks flowing down her back. The Virgin takes Elizabeth's hand and holds it over her swollen belly as the two kinswomen gaze into each other’s eyes in mutual recognition of momentous news. This scene offers substantial emotion and special charm, with a fine outdoor setting studded with rolling hills, distinctive trees, and, a rushing stream (unusually) highlighted with silver. 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 similarities between our miniature and the Visitation in the Morgan manuscript: the position and posture of the two women are nearly identical (particularly the way in which Elizabeth is dressed and slightly bends at one knee, as well as the way in which the women hold hands), and in both cases the background of each miniature contains a stream or river and is otherwise very well developed. Whoever the artist responsible for the present miniature, the painting is an excellent representation of a distinct regional style, full of fine detail, and beautifully composed. Though not without some condition issues, the leaf retains much of its original charm, with color and gold that are still bright and with well-preserved faces. (ST17060X)