Lot 1014
Sold for US$ 149,250 inc. premium

Fine Books & Manuscripts

14 Nov 2005, 13:00 PST

San Francisco

Lot Details
[ Horae beatae mariae virginis ad usum romanae ecclesiae.] Illuminated Latin manuscript on vellum. [France (Angers or Poitiers): circa 1450-60]. 172 leaves, gatherings originally mostly of 8 leaves (i6, ii6, vi6, vii6, viii6, x4, xxv4) with a few catchwords, 14 lines per page, written in black ink in a gothic liturgical hand. Rubrics in red, Calendar in red, blue and burnished gold, versal initials and line-fillers throughout in burnished gold and red and blue grounds, 2- and 3-line initials throughout in leafy designs in colors on burnished gold grounds with floral devices and ivy leaf borders, THREE QUARTER ILLUMINATED BORDERS ON EVERY PAGE consisting of foliate branches of ivy and acanthus on graceful curved stems in grisaille and gold detail with rich blue underleafs, most designs traced recto/verso, ALMOST EVERY PAGE, INCLUDING CALENDAR, INCORPORATING DROLLERIES, averaging two or three motifs per page, subjects being chiefly hybrid human animals, soldiers, and fantastical creatures, ONE FULL PAGE MINIATURE of the Annunciation with three historiated panels, one incorporating a spinning Virgin Mary, and FIFTY TWO HALF PAGE MINIATURES in gently arched gilt compartments, approximately 40 x 65 mm, above three line initials on blue grounds highlighted in red and liquid gold. 8vo (135 x 90 mm). 18th century green vellum gilt, custom cloth slipcase. Apparently lacking single leaves after ff. 22, 29, 39, 55, 101, 135 and 158, 2 leaves after f. 72, f. 26 is a cancel leaf, inner margins mostly oversewn and central sewing not usually visible, occasional paint smudging and surface ink loss, otherwise very fine and crisp coloring throughout, front hinge starting, customs stamp to rear pastedown, otherwise no internal ownership markings, overall an exceptionally beautiful and profusely illustrated book of hours.

1. The preponderance of female saints and composition of the Calendar suggests that the book was composed for a woman, likely in Poitiers or Tours, circa 1450-60, although the Obsecro te prayer is composed in the masculine.

2. Customs stamp for Florence, Italy (“Dogana de Firenze”) dated March 30, 1911 to rear pastedown, otherwise no other inscriptions or extant indications of ownership.

3. By descent through the estate of Colonel David McCandless McKell (1881-1962).

This hitherto unrecorded manuscript is almost certainly a major unrecorded production belonging to that group of manuscripts attributed to the Master of Adélaïde of Savoy (or Eberhard Koenig’s Master of Poitiers ms. 30), one of the leading illuminators who flourished under the influence of Jean Fouquet and the Master of Jouvenel des Ursins. Comparative analysis of this group’s chief motifs demonstrates that the miniatures and borders in this manuscript bear striking similarity with the chief works attributed to this artist listed in Koenig’s 1982 census [p. 256].
The aesthetic commonalities between this manuscript and other works attributed to this artist are striking, most notably with Rothschild ms. 2534. For example, the miniature of Christ Nailed to the Cross here (f. 158v) with that of Rothschild ms. 2543 (f. 130v; cf. Koenig 1982, pl. 328) as well as the large Crucifixion of the Poitiers ms. 30 (f. 167v; cf. Avril & Reynaud, pl. 64) reveals that the pointillist treatment of the ribcage and the diaphonous quality of the loincloth are remarkably similar in all three compositions, despite the different sizes and frames of reference, and is a distinguishing feature of this artist. Indeed, the artist has a extraordinary capacity to render lace or embroidered cloth; for example, Merlin’s robes in a miniature from the Roman du Graal [BnF 96, f.47; cf. Avril & Reynaud pl. 63] bears an intricate gilt fleur-de-lys design which is virtually cut from the same fabric as the curtains in several miniatures here, including the Trinity (ff. 28, 35, 42, 54). Another striking kinship can be found between the figures in the Annunciation of the Shepherds miniature in Rothschild ms. 2534, f. 75 (cf. Koenig 1982, pl. 24) and the same miniature here (f. 94r), wherein the device of heavenly intervention is virtually identical (a gilt facial chorus with emanating light rays at three distinct valences); likewise, the two figures of the shepherd and pipe player (here) strike nearly identical poses as those in Rothschild ms. 2534.
Indeed, the close developmental relationship between these two manuscripts is instructive: in the case of the Nailing to the Cross miniatures, the motif of the basket device at the lower margin and that of the Rothschild ms. are virtually identical, down to the placement of the pins resting within it. However, the device is extended in Rothschild ms. 2534 to include the figure of Hédroit next to the basket, a unusual feature which Lillian Randall has drawn attention to and suggests is an emulation of Fouquet’s Hours of Etienne Chevalier [Randall p. 172]. Likewise, the Annunciation of the Shepherds miniatures finds the addition of the third central figure and distant cityscape in the Rothschild manuscript, with a deepening perspective and contrast of light. These precise correlations, together with the commonalities apparent in the border illuminations discussed below, suggests that the McKell book of hours was composed shortly after this artist completed the unfinished miniatures in Rothschild ms. 2534, in which he advanced and adumbrated similar themes.
Kinships are still evident in later manuscripts ascribed to this artist as well; however, the correlations can be found mostly in the incidental treatment of mise-en-scene features, rather than the basic thematic structure of the image. For example, the posture and facial features of the marginal Apostles in the Pieta miniature here (f. 159v) clearly are reflected in the Chantilly ms. 1362 (Bouissounouse pl. XXXV); likewise the bold positioning of the infant Jesus in the Circumcision miniature in both manuscripts (f. 106; Bouissounouse pl. XXXI), together with the leg and tablecloth (with three decorative lines along the seam) are virtually identical in both works. A similar correlation can be drawn to the posture of the Apostle Mark in both cases (f. 21; Bouissounouse pl. XXVIII). One might also draw attention of the impressive full page miniature of the Annunciation here (f. 62), located in a gothic interior with three historiated panels, including the characteristic scene of the Virgin spinning yarn at the lower margin. The depiction of Archangel Gabriel and the angel chorus is reflected clearly in Chantilly ms. 1362 (Bouissounouse pl. XXVI), although the forehead and features on the Virgin are more pronounced in the latter manuscript, and betray the “harder, more sculptural quality” of later works attributed to this artist [cf. Randall, p. 178].

The workmanship of the borders and drolleries likewise anchors a connection between the McKell book of hours and the broader Jouvenal group of manuscripts. There is a preponderant stylistic affinity to the marginal illustrations in a group of manuscripts which include the McKell book of hours, Rothschild ms. 2534, Walters mss. 205 [cf. Randall figs. 260-1] and 222 [Randall fig. 255, pl. XVIa], Morgan ms. 199 [cf. Koenig pl. 68, 70, 79, 84, 99, 255, 261, 266], and especially the Fouquet manuscript BNF Latin 3211 [cf. Avril & Reynaud, pls. 67]. Other candidates for this style may include Lyon ms. 6022 [Koenig pl. 205-6, 210], and BNF mss. Latin 1179 & 3203 [cf. Avril & Reynaud, pl. 79; 76]. The salient features of this group include a preponderance of circulating acanthus and ivy stems with strong blue or gold underleafs, combined with a general absence of rinceau infilling which was so common in other workshops of the period, as well as a consistent population of drollery figures including sporting and military figures, hybrid creatures, snails, and monkeys, offset by a general absence of birds and architectural devices.
Some of the more unusual drollery figures in this McKell book of hours include an elephant being shot by a soldier with a crossbow (f. 64r/v), and the allegorical figure of Phyllis riding Aristotle’s back with a whip (f. 123r/v). Lillian Randall has suggested that the more advanced drollery work in Walters ms. 210, which does not follow the conventional verso/recto reproduction, may well be the work of Jean Fouquet himself [Randall p. 173]. There are similar advanced drollery designs in this manuscript as well, including those around the Nativity miniature (f. 88) without the conventional recto/verso tracing. In fact, two of the drollery figures there are clearly those of the Shepherds themselves, waiting in the wings, as it were, for their emergence in the next miniature.

Taken altogether, this developmental association of stylistic features helps to date and contextualize this manuscript. Koenig and Francois Avril have recognized Rothschild ms. 2534 to be a “complex collaboration” of two earlier, archaic artists who contributed to some of the preliminary miniatures (circa 1440-50), and later engrossed by the miniature compositions of the Master of Adélaïde of Savoy, whose work is accompanied by the elaborate acanthus borders typical of the Jouvenal group discussed above, which Koenig dates to no earlier than 1450. As the McKell book of hours here is so reminiscent stylistically to Rothschild ms. 2534, which in some respects introduces an extension of those themes (which are likewise further adumbrated and developed in Chantilly ms. 1362), it is likely that this work was a major solo composition produced in Poitiers or Angers, circa 1450-60, after the artist completed the remaining miniatures in Rothschild ms. 2534.

Undoubtedly, the Chantilly ms. 1362 is the Master of Adélaïde of Savoy’s magnum opus, with 24 illuminated Calendar borders featuring games in the margins and 12 miniatures which demonstrate the height of his late style. Nevertheless, the present manuscript, with 53 fully accomplished miniatures, including an astonishing 33 realized portraits of the Saints in the Suffrages section, is undoubtedly the most extensive and elaborate early work by this artist to have survived. Indeed, it may have been his first and most ambitious early solo commission, in which he fully worked out his painterly repertoire. It has often been noted that this artist has an early and late style, wherein the latter is marked by a “hard linearity” of the figures and more pronounced and exaggerated facial features [Plummer, 42; Randall, 178; Koenig 37ff; Avril 401]. As Chantilly ms. 1362 marks the apotheosis of that late style, so does the McKell book of hours arguably mark the culmination of his early painterly technique.
The evidence of his surviving oeuvre likewise bears this judgment out. With the addition of one work sold at auction to which this artist made contributions, Koenig’s 1982 census locates a total of 8 books of hours which are substantially complete, and four small fragments. The majority of these are works in which he made contributions of a handful of miniatures in concert with other collaborators, likely in a workshop. The McKell book of hours, with its impressive array of 53 miniatures including the Suffrages sequence, is the only one, with the exception of Chantilly ms. 1362, which appears to have been completed substantially in his own hand. There are clearly variations in compositional quality among the miniatures here, but they all betray a consistent handling of the facial and gestural details of the figures, and a marked facility with cloth and fabric which is one of the hallmarks of this artist’s style.
In light of the fact that the only other surviving commission to which he committed such a singular focus of his resources for an extended painterly display was the celebrated book of hours for which he is usually named , and later owned by Adélaïde of Savoy, Duchess of Burgundy, suggests that the McKell book of hours certainly was itself an important, if earlier, commission for this artist, and arguably stands second in importance to Chantilly ms. 1362 within his surviving oeuvre.
This exciting rediscovery of a major book of hours by this important artist is all the more remarkable for the breadth of artistry evident in the miniature sequence and the elaborate drollery decoration of every leaf, and it should certainly add to our knowledge and appreciation of this artist and his workshop at the height of manuscript illumination in late 15th century France.

This Book of Hours comprises: a Calendar (ff.1r-12v), in Latin, with an entry for every day in red with highlights in blue including Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers, Ambrosius, Radegundis and Martin (of Tours); the Gospel Sequences (ff. 13r-22v); the Obsecro te prayer, (ff. 23r-27v) lacking the opening leaf; Suffrages to the Saints (ff. 28r-61v), including the Trinity, SS. Michael, Andrew, James, John the Baptist, Thomas Aquinas, Bartholomew, Phillip & James, Jude & Simon, Mark, the Innocents, Stephen, Vincent, George, Denis, Nicasio, Sebastian, Nicholas, Martin, Maurus, Lupus, Eligius, Mary Magdalene, Mary of Egypt, Katherine of Alexandria, Agnes, Agatha, Cecilia, Apolonia, Elizabeth, Claire, Ursula and the 11,000 Virgins, and All Saints, lacking single leaves after ff. 29, 39 {Saint Lawrence?], and 55 [Saint Margaret?]; the Hours of the Virgin [Use of Rome], with Matins (ff. 62r-72v), Lauds, lacking two opening leaves (ff. 73r-87v); Prime (ff. 88r-93v); Terce (ff. 94r-98r); Sext (ff. 98v-101v); None, lacking opening leaf (ff. 102r-105v); Vespers (ff. 106r-115r); and Compline (ff. 115v-121r); Matutinal Psalms [44-5, 86, 95-7] (ff. 121v-135v); Hours of the Virgin for Advent, beginning imperfectly part way through Vespers “in graciam apud domini…” (ff. 136r-139r): Hours of the Virgin for Christmas (ff. 139v-154v); Hours of the Cross, (ff. 155r-161r); Hours of the Holy Spirit, (ff. 161v-165v); Accessory Texts, including Symbolum Athanasii (ff. 166r-170r); Secuntur septem versus sancti bernardi (ff. 170v-171v); and Omnipotens sempiterne deus… (f. 172).
Collation: i-ii6, iii8, iv8-1, v8-1, vi6, vii6-1, viii6, ix8-1, x4, xi8, xii8-2, xiii-xv8, xvi8-1, xvii-xix8, xx8-1, xxi-xxii8, xxiii8-1, xxiv8, xxv4.


The subjects of the miniatures are:

Folio 13. St. John on Patmos.
Folio 16. St. Luke in his study.
Folio 18v. St. Matthew.
Folio 21. St. Mark and the lion.
Folio 28. The Trinity.
Folio 29v. Archangel Michael.
Folio 30v. Saint Andrew.
Folio 31v. Saint James.
Folio 32v. Saint John.
Folio 33v. Saint Thomas Aquinas.
Folio 34v. Saint Bartholomew.
Folio 35v. Phillip and James.
Folio 36v. Jude and Simon.
Folio 37v. Saint Mark
Folio 38v. Massacre of the Innocents.
Folio 39v. Saint Stephen.
Folio 40v. Saint Vincent.
Folio 41v. Saint George.
Folio 42v. Saint Denis.
Folio 44. Saint Nicasio.
Folio 45. Saint Sebastian.
Folio 46. Saint Nicholas.
Folio 47. Saint Martin.
Folio 48. Saint Maurus.
Folio 49. Saint Lupus.
Folio 50. Saint Eligius.
Folio 51. Mary Magdalene.
Folio 52. Mary of Egypt.
Folio 53. Saint Catherine of Alexandria.
Folio 54. Saint Agnes.
Folio 55. Saint Agatha.
Folio 56. Saint Cecilia.
Folio 57. Saint Apolonia.
Folio 58. Saint Elizabeth.
Folio 59. Saint Claire.
Folio 60. Saint Ursula and the 11,000 Virgins.
Folio 61. All Saints.
Folio 62. Annunciation.
Folio 88. Nativity.
Folio 94. Annunciation of the Shepherds.
Folio 98v. Adoration of the Magi.
Folio 106. The Circumcision.
Folio 115v. Coronation of the Virgin.
Folio 139v. Prophet Ezekiel.
Folio 147. Prophet Isaiah.
Folio 150v. Prophet Tobias.
Folio 155. The Betrayal in the Garden.
Folio 156v. Christ Before Pilate.
Folio 157v. Christ Bearing the Cross.
Folio 158v. Nailing to the Cross.
Folio 159v. Taking Down from the Cross.
Folio 160v. Pieta.
Folio 161v. Pentecost.

Lillian C. Randall, Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Walters Art Gallery. Volume II: France 1420-1540. Baltimore & London: John Hopkins University Press, 1992.
Eberhard Koenig, Französische Buchmalerei um 1450. Berlin: Mann, 1982.
Francois Avril. Jean Fouquet. Peintre et enlumineur di xve siècle. Paris: Hazan, 2003.
Francois Avril and Nicole Reynaud, Les Manuscripts à peintures en France, 1440-1520. Paris: Flammarion, 1993.
Plummer, John. The Last Flowering: French Painting in Manuscripts, 1420-1530, from American Collections. NY & London: OUP, 1982
J. Bouissounouse, Jeux et travaux d’après un livre d’heures du xve siècle. Paris: E. Droz, 1925.

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