AN EXTRAORDINARY AND HIGHLY UNUSUAL BOOK OF HOURS, WITH STUNNING ILLUMINATIONS ON EVERY PAGE. A WONDERFULLY ECCENTRIC AND PERSONAL MANUSCRIPT.
A remarkable Book of Hours with every page fully illuminated, generally in a burlesque manner with grotesques or drolleries. The variety of illuminations is breathtaking, with scenes depicting dragons, dwarfs, knights, troubadours, archers, ladies, musicians, squirrels, bears, satyrs, mermaids, hybrid beasts, chimeras, dancing shepherds, defecating apes, cats chasing mice, et al.
The illustrated borders are highly entertaining, with a mixture of the sacred, profane, and simply bizarre, all rendered with superb skill and bright intense color. Many of the images carry meanings that are now lost to us, and this manuscript provides a rich source for study.
Calendar ff.1-6v, Hours of the Virgin, use of Amiens, ff.8-37v, Penitential Psalms and Litany, ff.40-48v; Short Office of the Dead, use of Amiens, ff.50-62; the Passion according to John followed by prayers, ff.63-70; prayers on the Sacrament ff.71-72; Salve regina and memorials to Sts John the Baptist, Anthony of Padua, Nicolas, Salvius, Adrian, Sebastian, Michael, Andrew, Mary Magdalene, Katherine, Genevieve and Barbara, prayers to the Virgin, for the dead and on the Ave Maria (lacking end) ff.73-85v, later addition: memorials to Sts Christopher, James, Anthony Abbot and Margaret ff. 86-90.
200 x 125mm. i + 90 leaves: 16, 2-78, 86, 92, 10-118, 127(of 8, lacking viii), 135(of 6 lacking vi, cancelled blank), the final gathering a later addition, 25 lines, written space 120 x 70mm, rubrics in red, line-endings and one-and two-line initials in liquid gold on grounds of red, blue or maroon, larger initials in liquid gold or blue on maroon or red grounds decorated with liquid gold, a three-sided border on every text page and most blanks with devices, mottoes, symbols, grotesques, secular figures, saints and angels on grounds finished with liquid gold, 24 small Calendar miniatures, four small miniatures, thirteen full-page miniatures in full borders and, in the later addition, four large miniatures above large initials in blue with red grounds and infills of flower or fruit sprays on gold within full borders (lacking one leaf after f.82 and one-pasted in miniature or print from f.39v, slight wear to some miniatures, charges on a few shields washed out or rubbed, head of death figure washed out in border f.51r-v, wear to calendar borders and a few other borders, off-setting to blank area f.13, traces of pilgrim badges, one perhaps with the ship of Our Lady of Boulogne, on verso of endleaf).
Background and Provenance:
The borders on each page vividly depict the diverse aspects of life in the Netherlands during the reign of the Dukes of Burgundy. Until 1477, Amiens had been part of the Burgundian lands before returning definitively to the French crown. The book deliberately harks back to this historical connection through the use of Burgundian symbols and figures dressed in the fashion of the late 15th century. You'll find people in steeple headdresses and long-toed shoes from that era alongside individuals in contemporary attire, creating a rich and varied tableau. Noblemen and ladies share the pages with moresca dancers who jingle their bells, jesters alongside monks, exotic warriors alongside knights, and mermaids next to dancing shepherds. Musicians are seen alongside archers, and the human figures are playfully interspersed with depictions of cats chasing mice, squirrels, bears, dragons, and a variety of fantastical creatures and grotesques.
On certain pages, the figures and motifs align with the written or visual content. For example, you'll find images related to the Passion during the Passion sequence, and depictions of death near the Office of the Dead. In some instances, religious themes appear more randomly, with monograms of Jesus, "AM" for Ave Maria, and figures of angels and saints, including recognizable figures like Mary Magdalene and Genevieve on f.72.
Although the identity of the patron of this Book of Hours remains unknown, it is clearly a lavish production created for someone of wealth and status. Throughout the borders is the motto “JE ME PLAINS”, which seems to carry a religious meaning, but there may also be a connection with Burgundy court poetry. A manuscript now in the Walker Library in Oxford (MS. Douce 152), carries the same motto in the borders, and although its style is less opulent, there are similarities. The Hours in the Bibliothèque municipale in Abbeville (MS 16) comes closest in the frequency of the motto and initials, as well as the richness of the borders, however the few miniatures in that manuscript are primitive, while in the present manuscript they are of a much higher quality.
There are numerous irregularly placed devices, some on blue shields, that might indicate ownership, such as the initials JG, BL, GY, GM, BJ, GR, as well as the St. Andrew's Cross and firesteels of the Dukes of Burgundy. It is unclear to whom or what these devices refer, but they offer further clues for investigation.
It is likely that the original owner of the book was a woman, for on a number of pages featuring emblematic initials, large female figures are painted, which may represent donors or owners. Further evidence for a female provenance can be gained from the inscriptions dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries, some of which are faded and others intentionally obscured. These inscriptions mainly pertain to Normandy or families with Norman origins. What appears to be the earliest inscription is found on the front pastedown where “Jeanne de Con… nee et native de Vallen… dauphine” recorded gifting the book to her granddaughter, Marie le Pogneur. It is presumed that this Marie le Pogneur is the same individual who noted her ownership of the book in 1583 on f38v. Page 90v contains records of the births of Angélique in 1616 and Marie in 1617, the granddaughters of Marie le Pogneur and Robert Malet, seigneur de St-Ouen. These granddaughters were born to Yolande Malet and Adrien de Bailleul, Seigneur de Blangues.
It was later apparently owned by Louise Catherine Françoise Chardon de Filières (1716-1801), daughter of Olivier Chardon de Filières and wife of Jacques Marie François Eudes de Catteville, seigneur de Mirville (1709-1759): on recto of endleaf there is “de Catteville” and her name. The more recent provenance is: Sotheby’s, 29 November 1990, lot 153.
The rich diversity of the borders suggests a patron who sought something truly exceptional. The miniatures were not created by the border artists working in the Amiens style, but rather by illuminators likely based in Paris. However, the first two miniatures on pages 7v and 13v, characterized by clear outlines and surface patterns, indicate the influence of someone trained in Rouen.
The subsequent seven miniatures were created by an illuminator closely associated with the Master of the Chronique Scandaleuse, a figure named after BnF ms Clairambault 486, and possibly influenced by the Master of Martainville 183, named after a Book of Hours in the Bibliothèque municipale in Rouen. Both of these artists were active in Paris. The next four full-page miniatures and the smaller ones were produced by a less skilled practitioner who employed a similar style.
The final section – added later – was intended to blend seamlessly with the original decorations. In this added section, the miniature borders incorporate the same birds, animals, and hybrid creatures found elsewhere in the manuscript. The borders framing the added text follow stylistic conventions influenced by printed Horae that were popular in Paris around 1500 although there are strong similarities borders that had already been executed on pages 62 and 79. The border on page 79 also seems to have inspired the one on page 86, although it was clearly created by a different artist.
The miniatures in the added section exhibit a style reminiscent of Jean Pichore, who was based in Paris from the 1490s to the 1520s but also worked for patrons in Rouen. (An origin in Rouen is possible and aligns with later provenance evidence.) The large-headed figures, landscapes with feathery trees, and the interior of St. Margaret's scene though may owe as much to Pichore's printed book illustrations as they do to his miniatures and the costume of the kneeling men, along with the overall style, suggests a date in the 16th century for the added section, possibly in the second decade.
In 1518, the Town Council of Amiens turned to Jean Pichore when they wished to present an illuminated manuscript to the King's mother. This marked a significant moment for Amiens, as the city's return to French rule solidified its connections with the renowned centers for producing illuminated manuscripts in Paris and Rouen. This particular Book of Hours mirrors the high standards associated with the French royalty, particularly in its Parisian miniatures. It stands out as an exceptional work, combining these Parisian miniatures with the captivating and diverse borders found in a select group of Amiens manuscripts. (See S. Nash's Between France and Flanders, Manuscript Painting in Amiens in the Fifteenth Century (1999), with reference to this specific manuscript on page 205.)
The subjects of the full-page miniatures are: the Annunciation f.7, the Visitation f.13v, the Nativity f.19v, the Annunciation to the Shepherds f.22v, the Adoration of the Magi f.25v, the Presentation in the Temple f.28v, the Flight into Egypt f.31v, the Coronation of the Virgin f.35v, Job on the dung heap f.49v, the Mass of St Gregory f.70v, Lamentation f.72v, Martyrdom of Sr Andrew f.76v, Martyrdom of St Barbara f.78v.
The subjects of the large miniatures in the added section are: St Christopher with kneeling man f.86, St James with kneeling man f.87v, St Anthony Abbot f. 88v, St Margaret 89v.
The subjects of the small miniatures are: Sts Nicholas f.74, Sebastian f.75, Our Lady of Boulogne: the Virgin and Child in a boat f.79, souls in the fires of purgatory f.81.
The subjects of the Calendar border scenes are the signs of the zodiac in landscapes below the text and the occupations of the months to the side: man drinking by fire f.1, man warming hands by fire f.1v, man pruning f.2, man carrying flower f.2v, man with hawk f.3, man carrying sheep (to shear) f.3v, man with scythe in hayfield f.4, man harvesting with sickle f.4v, man sowing f.5, man treading grapes f.5v, man slaughtering pig f.6, man putting bread in oven f.6v.
Later (likely recent) red velvet over wooden boards (boards not original, worming to re-used pastedowns and endleaf, extremities slightly rubbed). Black cloth box with red morocco lettering piece gilt.
Price: $350,000 .