Louis de Gruuthuse's copy of the Deeds of Sir Gillion de Trazegnies in the Middle East, in French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [southern Netherlands (Antwerp or perhaps Bruges), dated 1464]
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Louis de Gruuthuse's copy of the Deeds of Sir Gillion de Trazegnies in the Middle East, in French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [southern Netherlands (Antwerp or perhaps Bruges), dated 1464]
Estimate
3,000,0005,000,000
LOT SOLD. 3,849,250 GBP (Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium)
JUMP TO LOT

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Old Master & British Paintings Evening Sale
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Louis de Gruuthuse's copy of the Deeds of Sir Gillion de Trazegnies in the Middle East, in French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [southern Netherlands (Antwerp or perhaps Bruges), dated 1464]
237 leaves (1 blank), plus six modern vellum endleaves, 375mm. by 262mm., contemporary foliation in red in top-right hand corner of page, wanting a gathering after fol. 23 and a number of single leaves throughout, collation: i6 (one blank, 2 further blanks cancelled at end), ii8, iii7 (wanting viii), iv6 (wanting i and viii), v-vii8, viii7 (wanting v), ix-x8, xi7 (wanting viii), xii-xiv8, xv7 (wanting i), xvi7 (wanting iv), xvii-xx8, xxi6 (wanting vii-viii), xxii2 (wanting i-vi), xxiii-xxvi8, xxvii6 (wanting iii and vi), xxviii2 (wanting ii-vii), xxix8, xxx7 (wanting vi), xxxi8, xxxii7 (wanting viii), xxxiii6 (2 blanks cancelled at end), with many catchwords, single column, mostly ruled in purple ink for 27 lines, in dark brown or black ink in a single excellent lettre bâtarde (attributed to the scribe David Aubert, see below), numerous 1- and 2-line initials in brightly burnished gold on blue and pink grounds with white penwork picking out foliate sprays, delicately shaded acanthus leaves, scallop shells, eagles, horse-like quadrupeds, lions, dragons and a bearded human face on fol.141v, line fillers to match (one on fol. 24v including a delicate golden dragon; that on fols. 25r and 197r partly unfinished; that on fol. 50r partly smudged), one 4-line initial in blue containing tessellated gold, red and blue squares on fol.215r, forty-four historiated initials by Lieven van Lathem (fols. 10v, 11v, 13r, 14r, 15v, 17r, 19r, 27r, 31v, 34v, 41r, 44v, 45v, 54v, 60v, 64v, 69r, 72r, 78v, 82r, 84v, 95r, 101v, 105r, 113r, 115r, 120r, 124r, 128v, 132v, 147r, 153r, 164v, 168v, 170v, 200v, 204r, 208r, 210r, 214v, 218v, 224v, 228r and 235r), 4- or 5-lines in height, but those at top or bottom of page often larger (up to 65mm. by 70mm.), one on fol. 31v somewhat smudged, another on fol.124r with slight damage to sky at top, that on fol. 113r with chipping to upper right-hand corner of gold frame, else all in outstanding condition, eight half-page miniatures also by Lieven van Lathem (on fols. 9r, 21r, 36v, 49v, 134v, 150v, 177r and 188v; small smudge to background of that on fol. 134v), the miniatures with 4- or 5-line initials in blue with white penwork on burnished gold grounds, enclosing armorial devices (see below), penwork foliage or tessellated gold and coloured squares (that on fol.189r smudged in centre), accompanying border decoration on three sides composed of coloured acanthus leaves and more naturalistic foliage, with 6 butterflies, a dragonfly, 17 birds, a lion wearing a helmet, 4 realistic apes (one playing with a kitten, one playing a lyre, one in a hood aping a medieval doctor holding up a urine flask, and the last blowing a pair of bellows up a bear-cub’s bottom), four hunting hounds, a wildman and a wild-woman holding shields, 3 human-headed drolleries, and 7 human figures, all enclosed within border frames of thin blue and red lines, faint offset in reverse of a rubric on fol. 30r (presumably from production of volume in 1464), some tiny flaking from a few miniatures, small scuffs in places, slight loss of ink from occasional flesh-side pages, occasional cockling of parchment through minor water damage, small burn holes in fols. 60-62 (affecting a few letters on each leaf), ink having burnt through vellum in 6 small places on fol. 288 (but text still legible), otherwise in outstanding condition, early nineteenth-century English straight-grain blind-stamped tan morocco over wooden boards, spine tooled in compartments separated by green panels gilt-tooled with title, arms of the Dukes of Devonshire flanked by rearing stags on both boards, green silk doublures, gilt edges, binding rebacked, some scuffs and scratches to edges, fitted cloth case
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Provenance

An outstanding medieval romance, entirely secular in subject, and the greatest volume from the library of the celebrated bibliophile Louis de Gruuthuse ever to come to the open market

provenance

(1) Written and illuminated for Louis de Gruuthuse (1422-1492), also known as Louis de Bruges, courtier to Philip the Good and the greatest and richest bibliophile and art patron in the Burgundian Netherlands outside the reigning ducal family.  The volume is dedicated to him on fol. 8r in the unique prologue of the scribe, David Aubert, addressing him as “monseigneur loys seigneur de gruuthuse, prince de steenhuse, seigneur de avelghien, despiere, de oostcamp, de la court, de thielt, et de berchem, et cetera”, and stating that he ordered its copying, decoration and binding in 1464.  His coat-of-arms appears in the initials on fols. 21r, 36v and 150v (quarterly, 1 and 4, argent a cross sable, 2 and 3, gules a saltire argent, enclosed within the collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece; now over-painted with those of the kings of France, see below).  Gruuthuse’s emblem of a firing cannon or ‘bombard’ are on fols. 9r and 36v, and on fol. 36v a helmeted lion brandishes a sword and holds a banner with a tiny bombard and Gruuthuse’s motto “Plus est en vous” (‘there is more in you’).

(2) Louis XII (1462-1515, king of France from 1498), who was given the entire Gruuthuse library in c. 1500 doubtless by his chamberlain, Jean V de Gruuthuse (1458-1512), who had inherited his father’s books. 

(3) François 1 (1494-1547, king of France from 1515); the present manuscript was housed with the rest of the French royal library in the treasury of the château at Blois, at which point the coats-of-arms were over-painted with those of the kings of France.  The present volume is no. 97 in the inventory made in 1518 by the king’s chaplain Guillaume Petit, described there as “Guillon de Trasquines, chevalier du pays de Henault” (Omont, Anciens Inventaires et Catalogues de la Bibliothèque Nationale I, 1908-21, p. 14).  The vast majority of the Gruuthuse library, some 155 volumes from a total of approximately 180 extant, passed by descent from this point through the royal collections until the establishment of the French First Republic in September 1792.  The Gruuthuse manuscripts are today mostly still together in the Bibliothèque nationale de France (see below).  The present manuscript no longer appears in the Blois inventory of 1544, made in preparation for the move of the royal library to Fontainebleau in that year, before its transfer to Paris a few decades later, and it was clearly one of a number of the finest of the Gruuthuse books which had already strayed or been presented as royal gifts in the lifetime of François 1 (cf. L. Delisle, Le Cabinet des manuscrits, 1868, I, pp. 151-65 and 194-200; and Lafitte, ‘Les manuscrits de Louis de Bruges’, p. 246).

(4) William George Spencer Cavendish, sixth duke of Devonshire (1790-1858); in his possession by 1817 when it was described in detail by the Revd. Thomas Dibdin (1776-1847) who concluded “the reader sighs to take leave of such a volume”; by descent in the library at Chatsworth, MS 7535.

Literature

literature

T. F. Dibdin, Bibliographical Decameron, 1817, pp. cciii-cciv.

J. P. Lacaita, A Catalogue of the Library at Chatsworth, IV, 1879, p. 332.

‘La bibliothèque de Chatsworth’, pp. 650-52 in Bibliotheque de l’École des Chartes, 40 (1879), p. 651.

A. Bayot, Le Roman de Gillion de Trazignies, 1903, p. 24.

S. C. Cockerell, Burlington Fine Arts Club Exhibition of Illuminated Manuscripts, 1908, pp. 79-80, no. 160, pls. 6 (with photograph of volume open in case L) and 111.

G. Doutrepont, La Littérature française à la cour des ducs de Bourgogne, 1909, pp. 43-49.

F. Winkler, Die flämische Buchmalerei des XV. und XVI. Jahrhunderts, 1925, pp. 90 and 169.

E. B. Ham, ‘Le manuscrit de Gillion de Trazegnies à Chatsworth’, Romania, 229 (1932), pp. 66-77.

L. M. J. Delaissé, La Miniature Flamande, Le Mécénat de Philippe le Bon, 1959, pp. 131-32, no. 160.

Jaarboek van het Koniklijke Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen, 1969, p. 101.

J. J. G. Alexander, Medieval and Early Renaissance Treasures in the North West, 1976, p. 30, no. 51.

A. Blunt, ed., Treasures from Chatsworth, The Devonshire Inheritance, A Loan Exhibition, 1980, p. 64, no. 130.

C. Lemaire and A. de Schryver, Vlaamse Kunst op Pergament, 1981, no. 135, pp. 213 and 229.

F. Horgan, ‘A critical edition of the romance of Gillion de Trazegnies from Brussels, Bibliothèque royale ms. 9629’, PhD dissertation, University of Cambridge, 1985, p. lxxxi.

G. Dogaer, Flemish Miniature Painting in the 15th and 16th centuries, 1987, p. 136.

A. de Schryver in Le Pontifical de Ferry de Clugny, Cardinal et Évêque de Tournais (Collezione Paleografia Vaticana, III), 1989, p. 74.

D. Devonshire, Treasures of Chatsworth, A Private View, 1991, p. 188.

M. P. J. Martens and P. De Gryse, eds., Lodewijk van Gruuthuse: Mecenas Europees Diplomaat ca. 1427-1492 (exhib., Gruuthusemuseum, Bruges), 1992, no. 4, pp. 164-69, and illustrated on front cover, pp. 8 (detail), 114, 118, 120, 136 (detail), 165, 166 and 170.

J. Lacarrière, ed., Pseudo-Callisthenes, Alexandre le Grand, La vie légendaire, 1993, p. 211.

Van Eyck to Breugel, 1400 to 1550, Dutch and Flemish Painting in the Collection of the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, 1994, p. 165, n. 4.

R. Straub, David Aubert, escripvain et clerc, 1995, pp.113-16 and 247.

B. Brinkmann in the Grove Dictionary of Art, 19, 1996, p. 350.

M. P. Lafitte, ‘Les manuscrits de Louis de Bruges’, pp. 243-55 in Le Banquet du Faisan, L’Occident face au défi de l’Empire ottoman, ed. M.-T. Caron and D. Clauzel, 1997, p. 246.

L. M. C. Randall, Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Walters Art Gallery III, 1997, p. 369.

W. Prevenier and W. P. Blockmans, Prinsen en Poorters, 1998, p. 42 (illustrated).

M. Smeyers, Flemish Miniatures from the 8th to the mid-16th century, 1999, pp. 406 (illustrated) and 416.

C. Raynaud, ‘À la Hache!’ Histoire et symbolique de la hache dans la France médiévale, XIIIe-XVe siècles, 2002, pp. 429 and 653.

J. Paviot, Les ducs de Bourgogne, la croisade et l’Orient, 2003, p. 213.

T. Kren and S. McKendrick, Illuminating the Renaissance: the Triumph of Flemish Manuscript Painting in Europe, 2003, no. 58, pp. 239 and 241-2, no. 58, with full-page illustration and detail.

F. Villaseñor Sebastián, ‘Préstamos e influencias extranjeras en la miniature Hispanoflamenca Castellana, 1450-1500’, pp. 227-35 in El arte foráneo en España, Presencia e influencia, ed. M. C. Bravo, 2005, p. 229.

N.  Barker in The Devonshire Inheritance, Five Centuries of Collecting at Chatsworth, 2005 (a loan exhibition throughout the United States), no. 130, p. 64, illustrated pl. 130.

A. de Schryver and T. Kren, The Prayer Book of Charles the Bold, 2008, pp. 48, 134, 166, 176 (fig. 71) and 185.

R. Brown-Grant, French Romance of the Later Middle Ages: Gender, Morality and Desire, 2008, p. 155.

H. Verougstraete et al., eds., The Quest for the Original, 2008, p. 6.

G. Campbell, The Grove Encyclopaedia of Northern Renaissance Art, II, 2009, p. 481.

Charles the Bold, Splendour of Burgundy, ed. S. Marti, T-H. Borchert and G. Keck, 2009, fig. 35.

I. Hans-Collas and P. Schandel, eds., Manuscrits enluminés des anciens Pays-Bas méridionaux, I: Manuscrits de Louis de Bruges, 2009, pp. 78, 81, 84, 124, 298 and 321.

S. Vincent, Le Roman de Gillion de Trazegnies, 2010, pp. 31 and 38-41, with all 8 miniatures reproduced on pp. 392-93.

O. Delsaux, ‘Les designations des manuscrits originaux en moyen français’, pp. 53-68 in Original et originalité, Aspects historiques, philologiques et littéraires, ed. O. Delsaux and H. Haug, 2011, p. 58.

Minatures flamandes, 1404-1492, ed. B. Bousemanne and T. Delacourt, 2011, pp. 124 (n. 27), 287, 292, 406 (n. 7), and plates on pp. 120, 287 and 289.

C. Fisher, Flowers of the Renaissance, 2011, pp. 88-89, with plate.

Catalogue Note

text

Like many medieval romans, this fictional text of chivalry is set in an imagined period of history.  Although the narrative supposedly took place in the time of “le noble roy childebert”, who died in 558, it recounts the adventures of a crusading knight based on two members of an important noble family from Hainault, Gilles I (1134-1161), the first lord of a united Trazegnies, and Gilles le Brun (1199-1276), the champion of the first Crusade of Saint Louis.  The hero sets out from his home in Trazegnies, in modern Hainault, to go to the Holy Land on pilgrimage.  On his way home he is taken prisoner in Cairo by the Sultan, and is spared from death in the manner of Saint Sebastian (who was tied and pierced with arrows) only through the intervention of the Sultan’s daughter, Gracienne, who falls in love with him when she glimpses him stripped to the waist and tied to the stake.  She petitions her father for Gillion’s release.  Gillion in turn then converts her to Christianity.  Back in Hainault, Gillion’s wife begins to wonder if some misfortune has befallen him, and so a nobleman, Amaury d’Ormais (who is secretly seeking the wife’s hand in marriage), offers to go to the Holy Land to search for him.  Amaury finds Gillion and treacherously tells him that while he was away his wife and twin sons have died.  Gillion then marries Gracienne and enters the service of her father.  However, Gillion’s sons then appear and the awkward truth is revealed.  To resolve the accidental sin of bigamy, both of Gillion’s wives enter the Olivetan convent in Binche.  Gillion himself returns to Egypt alone, but on his death his heart is taken back to Hainault to be buried between the two women.  In the author’s prologue on fol. 10r, we are told that his discovery of this tomb in Binche and the emergence of “ung petit liure en parchemin escript dune moult ancienne lettre et caduce en langue ytalienne” in the possession of the abbot there, prompted the translation of the text.

The text is anonymous, but was evidently written for presentation to Philip the Good, to whom it is dedicated in the prologue on fol. 8r.  It has been attributed to a number of authors connected to the Burgundian court, including David Aubert and the chronicler Jean de Wavrin.  In the context of the present manuscript, the candidacy of the great Burgundian court scribe, David Aubert, makes most sense.  He certainly copied both the present volume and the Dülmen manuscript of the same text (Dülmen, library of the Duc de Cröy, made in 1463 for the Grand Bâtarde, Antoine of Burgundy).  The Chatsworth manuscript is closely related to the Dülmen copy, but has a number of small variants.  Most probably the exemplar behind both manuscripts was Aubert’s own, used in 1463 and 1464 and added to in the meantime.  This lost exemplar may have been the original, and the present manuscript is likely to be a direct descendant of it, and may well be in the hand of the author himself.

It is one of the primary manuscripts of the text, and one of only two with illustrations.  Vincent lists three manuscripts of the fifteenth century (Brussels, Bibliothèque royale, ms 9629, made c. 1455; the Dülmen copy; and Jena, Thüringer Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek, MS El. f. 92, late fifteenth century), as well as a single sixteenth-century copy (Brussels, Bibliothèque royale, ms IV.1187, dated 1529) and three Latin translations.  Only the present volume and the Dülmen copy contain the longer version of the text, and only these two have illustrations (see below).  The text was edited most recently by Vincent in 2010, citing this as her MS ‘E’.

This text and the majority of the fifty-two illustrations here provide a window into medieval Western perceptions of the Middle East and the court of the Sultan, at a crucial moment after the fall of Constantinople in 1453.  Under the guise of entertainment – with fantastically wealthy courts, richly dressed foreigners and exotic animals such as camels and elephants – the manuscript also had a political function.  On 17 February 1454, Philip the Good held a lavish banquet in Lille intended to promote a Burgundian crusade, subsequently known as the Banquet du Faisan after the duke’s staging of a piece of propagandistic theatre.  Partway through the entertainments, an actor appeared in white robes riding on an elephant led by a giant Moor and holding a live pheasant, declaring himself to be the personification of the Church of Constantinople, lamenting the loss of the city to Sultan Mehmed II, and calling upon those present, particularly the knights of the Order of the Golden Fleece, to come to its defence.  Louis de Gruuthuse was doubtless among those who took oaths to recover the city; he had already been a member of the Order of the Golden Fleece since 1461, three years before the present manuscript was made.  Philip made several attempts to embark on this crusade, the most earnest in 1463-64, after the arrival of exiles from Constantinople in the Burgundian court, described by a Ghent writer as “the most strange ambassadors ever seen”.  They included the patriarch of Antioch, an ambassador of Armenia named Maurat, another named Mahon from the ‘lesser Turks’ and Castoniden from Georgia, described as a “great gruff man of marvellously strange appearance, with two crowns on top of his head, rings in his ears, and a face and beard like a monkey”.  However, all of Philip’s attempts were thwarted by local unrest.  There is much here that accords well with that idealistic Burgundian crusading spirit, including the placing of an avenging knight from the heart of Hainault at the centre of the action in the Near East and his conversion of the Sultan’s daughter (apparently echoing and acting out Pius II’s demands for the Sultan himself to convert).  This de luxe volume, with its miniatures showing a war against the Saracens, must have been created to reflect its owner’s allegiance to the cause, and it may well have been used by him in the promotion of his and Philip the Good’s crusading ambitions.

The patron

Louis de Gruuthuse rose from the wealthy mercantile class of Flanders.  His father, Jean IV de Gruuthuse, was a prominent citizen of Bruges known for his patronage of tournaments and music, and secured his son a place at the ducal court.  Louis accepted a series of prominent governorships from Philip the Good, and he used the vast wealth that these brought to establish himself as by far the greatest private patron of illuminated manuscripts of the late Middle Ages.  No contemporary catalogue of the Gruuthuse library survives.  The fullest modern listing of the manuscripts from his library is in Manuscrits enluminés des anciens Pays-Bas méridionaux, I: Manuscrits de Louis de Bruges, pp. 321-28, recording some 180 volumes.  His palatial house in Bruges, one of finest surviving from medieval Belgium, is now the Gruuthusemuseum.  In 1470-71, he gave shelter there to the near-penniless exile, Edward IV of England, and this hospitality in Bruges gained Louis de Gruuthuse his English title of ‘earl of Winchester.’  More directly, he inspired his friend Edward with a love of books, especially for large chivalric and secular texts like the present volume (which the king may well have handled).  As a direct result of this contact, Edward commissioned what became the foundation texts of the English royal library.

 The fate of the Gruuthuse library

Louis de Gruuthuse was an avid book collector as well as commissioner of volumes, and there are a number of manuscripts associated with him, but without his armorial devices and ownership marks (such as the Colard Mansion, Penitence d’Adam, 1472-84, and the Dialogus Creaturarum in the French translation of Colard Mansion, dated 1482, both Tenschert, Leuchtendes Mittelalter III, 1991, nos. 14 and 15, the former recently re-offered by Jörn Günther, the latter now the subject of a monograph by E. König, Streitgespräch der Geschöpfe 'Le dyalogue des creatures', Heribert Tenschert, Illumination, Studien und Monographien 17, 2012), and others which he appears to have given away during his lifetime, such as the Josephus, Antiquités judaïques, now London, Sir John Soane’s Museum, MS 1, which was most probably a gift from Louis to Edward IV, and has partially erased Gruuthuse arms overpainted with those of the English king; the Vie et Passion de Notre Seigneur, sold in our rooms, 6 December 2001, lot 67; and the Boethius, De consolatio philosophiae, previously Phillipps MS 12222, sold at Christie’s, 7 June 2006, lot 19.

Apart from these, the core of his vast library passed on his death to his son Jean V, who in turn presented it to Louis XII of France (see above).  The majority of these – 155 volumes – remained in royal possession, passing into the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris in the late eighteenth century.  However, a small number of the finest of the Gruuthuse books left the main collection during the lifetime of François 1, and are now scattered between a handful of European and American institutional libraries. Apart from the present manuscript, they are:

Berlin, Staatbibliothek, Cod. Phillipps 1930;

Besançon, Bibliothèque municipale, ms Chiflet 91;

Brussels, Bibliothèque royale, mss 15054, 15657, II.280 and IV.1093;

Geneva, Bibliothèque publique et universitaire, mss  fr. 169 and 170;

The Hague, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, MS 79 K10 (formerly Bruges, Baron van Caloen collection);

Harvard, Houghton Library, MSS Typ. 129 and 130;

London, British Library, Harley MS 4431 and Additional MS 18798;

Paris, École des Beaux-Arts, ms Coll. Masson 99;

Paris, Bibliothèque Mazarine, ms 338;

Paris, Bibliothèque Ste-Geneviève, mss 809-11;

Rennes, Bibliothèque municipale, ms 153;

Turin, Biblioteca Nazionale, mss L.I.4 and L.I.10.

Apart from the present manuscript and these listed here, no other volume securely identifiable as from the permanent heart of the Gruuthuse library is recorded.

 the scribe

David Aubert was working in the fiscal administration of the Burgundian court by 1453.  He appears to have begun his scribal career in the service of Philip the Good’s chamberlain, Jean V of Créquy, compiling and writing the Chroniques et conquests de Charlemagne (now Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale, mss 9066-68).  This chronicle changed ownership partway through its production, and Aubert completed it for the duke instead, formally entering his service in 1459.  In the Burgundian accounts he takes the title “escrivain de monsigneur le duc” and on occasion also holds responsibility for the “ystorier et relier” of volumes.  Almost his entire career was spent in the ducal court, and the majority of the 70 surviving volumes connected to him (some 43 signed and 27 attributed) were produced for members of the ducal family (see Straub, David Aubert, and Kren, Illuminating the Renaissance, no. 50).  Portraits of him by Loyset Liédet show a clean-shaven young man in a distinctive tall and conical hat, seated in the act of writing as Philip the Good peeps in through an open door (Histoire de Charles Martel, Brussels, Bibliothèque royale, ms 6, fol. 9r, and ms  8, fol. 7r).  Aubert remained the pivotal book-producer in the Burgundian court until his death in 1479.

illumination

“The eight miniatures and forty-four historiated initials that Lieven van Lathem produced for Louis of Gruuthuse’s copy of the romance of Gillion de Trazegnies constitute his most ambitious narrative cycle. The beauty of this sequence of illustrations and the subtlety in the handling of narrative, mood, and human emotion have few parallels among contemporary manuscripts” (McKendrick, p. 241).

Lieven van Lathem joined the painters’ guild in Ghent in 1454 and within two years was attendant on the Burgundian ducal court.  By the 1460s he had moved on to Antwerp, and his career was at its height.  He appears as one of the highest paid artists used in the preparations for the meeting of the Order of the Golden Fleece in May 1468 and the wedding celebrations of Charles the Bold a few months later.  The next year Charles paid him for a splendid prayerbook produced in conjunction with the Vienna Master of Mary of Burgundy (J. Paul Getty Museum, MS 37; McKendrick, Illuminating the Renaissance, no. 16, pp. 128-31), and he went on to work on the Hours of Mary of Burgundy itself (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Cod. 1857), collaborating with Simon Marmion and others.  After the extinction of the male Burgundian line, van Lathem served Maximilian I as ‘valet de chambre’ and ‘paintre du roy’ until his death in 1493. 

“The miniatures by Lieven van Lathem are distinguished above all by their radiant colour.  All the pictures convey the atmosphere of a summer’s day, with light-blue, lightly clouded sky, a strong effect of aerial perspective through the blue tones of the background, and a clear, almost harsh light.  Bright blue and red dominate the artist’s palette, yellow is often prominent too, shaded with orange. The grotesque figures in the border are of a remarkably high quality” (Grove Encyclopaedia of Northern Renaissance Art, II, p. 481).  All the hallmarks of the artist’s hand are here in this vast visual narrative of eight large miniatures of the highest quality, bustling with scenes of bloody and realistic warfare with knights jousting on horseback with Moors on camels and an elephant, naval battles and sea travel and the court of the Sultan in all its eastern splendour.  These are connected by forty-four delicate historiated initials, each a jewel in itself, with depictions of Gillion’s travels, meetings with foreign rulers (including the African king of Tripoli), and his relations with his two wives.  They are in part related to the series of illustrations in the Dülmen manuscript (cf.  Vincent, Le Roman, pp. 65-75, and McKendrick, Illuminating the Renaissance, p. 242) but, unlike that copy where its thirty miniatures are crammed together on only eight pages of the volume, the longer visual series here is more carefully planned to complement and augment the narrative.

It is in the combination of the artist’s and scribe’s work that the present manuscript reveals its sublime quality.  In 1464, Louis de Gruuthuse’s career and wealth were at their highest points, and he used his wealth and influence to unite an artist in such demand as van Lathem with Aubert, who was apparently in permanent attendance of the ducal court at this time.  In 1464-1470 they produced two other manuscripts for Gruuthuse: Raoul Lefèvre, Histoire de Jason (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, ms fr. 331: Manuscrits enluminés des anciens Pays-Bas méridionaux, no. 18, pp. 79-82); and Pseudo-Aristotle, Secret des secrets, (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, ms fr. 562: ibid., no.19, pp. 83-5).  In all three the hand is refined to a remarkable degree, and the miniatures and borders filled with apes, wildmen and grotesques are of superior quality.  These volumes rank among the finest of any from the Burgundian court.  The present manuscript is on the front cover of the great Gruuthuse exhibition catalogue of 1992.  McKendrick notes, “even within Gruuthuse’s extensive and refined collection, this volume must have been regarded as a remarkable artistic achievement” (p. 241).

The large miniatures comprise:

1.  Folio 9r: arch-topped miniature, 135mm. by 165mm., with the author receiving the small Italian volume ‘in ancient script’ from an abbot and monks of Binche, where Sir Gillion and his two wives are buried.  Outside in the background, the author is seated working on his translation.  Three-quarter border with birds, a butterfly and a firing bombard.

2.  Folio 21r: rectangular miniature, 106mm. by 165mm., a naval battle between the galleon containing Gillion’s troops and the soldiers of the Saracen prince.  Three galleons are sailing side by side as men stab at each other, leap from one vessel to another, while bodies tumble into the water and the dying claw at the side of the ships.  Three-quarter border with birds, a butterfly and two men in bright red and blue robes chopping at the undergrowth.

3.  Folio 36v: rectangular miniature, 100mm. by 162mm., of a massacre in an enemy camp, with Gillion in armour slashing at the neck of a Saracen king, having already despatched another who lies on the ground before him.  Fine furnishings spill out from the enemy’s tent.  To the right, Gillion frees a knight tied to a stake as his page prepares his horse.  Behind, an enemy tent is sacked, with Western knights killing Saracens who wear turban-like headdresses.  Three-quarter border with a wildman, a lion in a helmet holding a pennant with a tiny bombard and the motto “Plus est en vous” and a noble lady and a wild-woman holding armorial shields; a firing bombard in the bas-de-page.

4.  Folio 49v: an arch-topped miniature, 125mm. by 160mm., of a mounted battle,  with two knights in the foreground in a duel, Gillion on the left (identified by the “GI” on his shield and “Gillion de trasigne” on his horse’s bridle in liquid gold), spearing the Saracen commander (“ertan de sare[c]en”), who tumbles from his horse.  In the mid-ground is a bustling battle scene with numerous knights hacking and slashing at one another.  In the background a joust takes place, with the knights shattering their lances on each other’s shields before a medieval walled town.  Of this scene Dibdin noted “a Battle which scarcely has its equal – being as fresh as if just executed”.  Three-quarter border with birds, a moor and a hunting dog.

5.  Folio 134v: rectangular miniature, 105mm. by 160mm., with a duel between Gerard de Trazegnies (Gillion’s son) and the Saracen nobleman, Lucion, for the hand of Natalie; Lucion is knocked to the ground and cowers as Gerard swings his sword down at him.  Their horses fight on the right, Gerard’s biting at the neck of Lucion’s and drawing blood.  In the background a noble audience looks on from a raised box.  Three-quarter border with a bird, a dragonfly, an ape playing with a kitten, a half-human drollery blowing a hunting horn and holding two hunting hounds as another bites into the neck of a fallen stag.

6.  Folio 150v: rectangular miniature, 105mm. by 160mm., with Gracienne kneeling before the Sultan, her father, as Gillion and Haldin compete for his attention, all set within a richly decorated interior.  Three-quarter border with birds, a butterfly, an ape with a lyre and two half-human drolleries (one playing a lyre with a double bow, the other blowing a broom like a trumpet).

7.  Folio 177r: rectangular miniature, 88mm. by 158mm., a mounted battle scene with Gillion at the head of a multitude of armed knights clashing with Saracen forces led by dark-skinned Moors; to the left is a rider mounted on a camel, to the right another on a tusked elephant.  In the foreground the king of Fez lies slumped dead in the corner of the miniature, as his ally tumbles from his horse.  Three-quarter border with a butterfly, an ape dressed as a doctor in a red coif examining a urine flask, and another blowing a pair of bellows up a bear-cub’s bottom.

8.  Folio 188v: rectangular miniature, 105mm. by 160mm., Gillion taking leave of the Sultan outside his palace as Gracienne embraces and kisses her father for the last time; women and courtiers weeping in the courtyard and at the windows as Gillion’s retinue ride away into a wide rocky landscape.  Three-quarter border with birds, two armed knights in brightly coloured armour fighting and a man cutting undergrowth.

The historiated initials, of which Dibdin stated “the larger ones have a freshness and brilliancy almost unrivalled”, comprise: (1) folio 10v, 60mm. by 72mm., the marriage of Gillion to his first wife in Hainault; (2) folio 11v, 70mm. by 60mm., Gillion and his wife embracing in a large pink building with a moat; (3) folio 13r, 45mm. by 55m., Gillion kneeling before an altar before setting out on pilgrimage; (4) folio 14r, 58mm. by 65mm., Gillion, his wife and followers on horseback; (5) folio 15v, 55mm. by 50mm., Gillion kneeling in fealty before the “conte de haynau” before setting off on pilgrimage; (6) folio 17r, 65mm. by 60mm., Gillion on horseback, taking leave of his wife and riding away from his home; (7) folio 19r, 48mm. by 60mm., Gillion kneeling before the Pope seeking his blessing for his voyage; (8) folio 27r, 63mm. by 60mm., Gillion in a mounted battle with King Ysore of Damascus before a walled city; (9) folio 31v, 70mm. by 60mm., another mounted battle with King Ysore and his knights; (10) folio 34v, 65mm. by 63mm., Gillion and Hertan the Saracen riding out of a walled city together; (11) folio 41r, 65mm. by 75mm., Gillion and Hertan riding past a large building with a spiral staircase as a noblewoman looks on; (12) folio 44v, 64mm. by 46mm., the Saracen troops loading trunks of provisions onto a masted ship, in the background a fleet at anchor; (13) folio 45v, 74mm. by 48mm., Gillion in full armour before a pagan idol (in the form of a golden nobleman) as Gracienne persuades her father to spare him and the Sultan drops to his knees; (14) folio 54v, 60mm. by 80mm., a mounted battle with Gillion in the foreground (with “GI” on his shield), a severed head tied to his saddle, as he routs the enemy; (15) folio 60v, 55mm. by 65mm.,  Amaury and Gillion’s twin sons, one seated on a barrel with a lance in hand; (16) folio 64v, 80mm. by 60mm., Amaury kneeling before Gillion; (17) folio 69r, 65mm. by 75mm., Gillion swooning in horror as he is told of the death of his wife and sons in Hainault; (18) folio 72r, 70mm. by 63mm., a great battle of mounted knights before a Saracen city, in which “Amaury le tres pervers et desleal chevalier” is killed; (19) folio 78v, 80mm. by 75mm., the flight of King Fabur from Tripoli, with Gillion amid dead bodies, as Fabur stands on a ship in the harbour slashing at his foes; (20) folio 82r, 65mm. by 80mm., Gillion as an armoured knight and Fabur as a dark-skinned Moor in Tripoli; (21) folio 84v, 70mm. by 50mm. Jean and Gerard, Gillion’s twin sons, take leave of their mother; (22) folio 95v, 75mm. by 85mm., the court of the king of Tripoli, with the dark-skinned king seated with courtiers before a table as a messenger kneels before him; (23) folio 101v, 80mm. by 75mm. Gillion embraces and kisses Gracienne before boarding a galleon; (24) folio 105r, 60mm. by 55mm., Jean and Gerard in the court of the king of Cyprus, as courtiers play chess; (25) folio 113r, 50mm. by 65mm., the constable of Cyprus and the Grand Master on horseback attacking an enemy camp; (26) folio 115r, 65mm. by 70mm., an officer of the constable of Cyprus or the Grand Master, riding on a camel, surveying the spoils taken from the enemy; (27) folio 120r, 65mm. by 75mm., Jean and Gerard in a naval battle with the forces of Tripoli; (28) folio 124r, 65mm. by 45mm., the brothers arrive by ship into a port in Slavonia (now eastern Croatia); (29) folio 128v, 70mm. by 55mm., Gerard kneeling before King Morgaunt of Slavonia; (30) folio 132v, 75mm. by 55mm., the imprisonment of Jean by King Morgaunt, with the king looking away as Jean is dragged away by his gaolers; (31) folio 147r, 55mm. by 75mm., Lucion’s vanquishing of Gerard, with a combatant at the foot of Lucion’s horse, his right leg severed at the knee; (32) folio 153r, 95mm. by 55mm., Hertan in a pitched battle with the champion of King Haldin as crowds look on, the king and his court in a raised box; (33) folio 164v, 70mm. by 45mm., the two sons of Gillion in a similar duel, at the moment they recognise each other and embrace; (34) folio 168v, 75mm. by 50mm., Gillion on horseback fighting the kings Morgaunt and Fabur; (35) folio 170v, 70mm. by 73mm., Gillion in a mounted battle; (36) folio 200v, 60mm. by 78mm., the convent at Binche with priests kneeling at the altar and the nuns in prayer; (37) folio 204r, 65mm. by 70mm., Gillion’s men loading his belongings onto a waiting galleon as he once again sets off for the court of the Sultan; (38) folio 208r, 63mm. by 100mm., Gillion’s arrival into Acre on a rowed galleon with many oars at the side; (39) folio 210r, 55mm. by 75mm., Gillion on horseback meeting and embracing the ambassadors of the Sultan; (40) folio 214v, 75mm. by 80mm., the meeting of Gillion and the Sultan as the soldiers erect tents around them; (41) folio 218v, 65mm. by 80mm., a detailed battle scene with mounted knights in the rear and dismounted riders in the foreground; (42) folio 224v, 60mm. by 55mm., a similar battle scene, one Saracen rider on a camel; (43) folio 228r, 60mm. by 70mm., Gillion and his son Gerard in a mounted attack on a Saracen force; and (44) folio 235r, 57mm. by 78mm., Gillion kneeling before the Sultan within a walled courtyard.

Old Master & British Paintings Evening Sale
Including Three Renaissance Masterworks from Chatsworth

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London