Lot 80
  • 80

The Hours of Dona Violante, Use of Rome, in Latin and Catalan [Spain (Valencia) and southern Netherlands (Bruges), c.1480]

300,000 - 500,000 GBP
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • illuminated manuscript on vellum
179x133mm, vellum, iii+259+ii, in 27 quires mostly of ten leaves, with 15 inserted miniatures, and 17 whole text leaves excised, collation: i12, ii10+2, iii10+1, iv-v10, vi-vii10+1,viii-ix10+2, x10+1, xi10-1 (wanting most of ii), xii10-3 (wanting vi-viii)+1, xiii11, xiv-xvii10, xiii6, xix10-5 (wanting i, viii-x), xx6 (wanting i-iii), xxi10, xxii8; xxiii10-1 (wanting most of v)+1, xxiv10-2 (wanting vi-vii)+1, xxv10-2 (wanting iv-v), xxvi10-2 (wanting most of ix, and x), xxvii8-2 (wanting i-ii)+2, 15 lines, 112x72mm, written by at least two scribes, with a change of script and decoration at f.102r, reverting to the first scribe and decorator at f.125r, and a third scribe apparently starting at f.195r, 15 full-page miniatures with full borders, all but three of them (ff.124v, 252v, 254v) with a full border on the facing page, 2 historiated initials with full borders, 1 further full border (f.221v), 3 initials containing heraldic arms (ff.253r, 255r), 3- and 4-line initials with partial borders to major texts (ff.115r, 232v), 1- and 2-line illuminated initials throughout, at an unknown date (17th century?) an owner or censor excised or effaced many of the texts in Catalan: ff.114, 193, 220, and 252 preserve from 2 to 8 lines of text, the rest having been excised, occasionally, however, the Catalan texts are left unscathed (e.g. ff.129r-130r), minor flaking of pigments in some miniatures and borders, deliberate smudging of the figure tormenting Christ on f.97v, contemporary binding of blind-stamped leather over wood boards enclosed within a red velvet chemise, with piping and hanging corner ornaments of metal thread, edges gauffered and gilt, with added niello clasp of c.1530s, one joint repaired


Condition is described in the main body of the cataloguing where appropriate.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

The Hours of Dona Violante, a newly discovered masterpiece from Valencia, enriched with miniatures by the Master of the Dresden Prayerbook and the Master of Edward IV, in a contemporary binding within its splendid velvet chemise


(1) Made for a Catalonian woman named "Yolant" (commonly known as Violante) who had a special devotion to Franciscan and Dominican saints, and perhaps had a history of blindness in her family. Her name appears in a prayer of supplication (“famula tua Yolant”, f.246v). The manuscript was further personalised by the inclusion of her family’s armorial shields at the beginning of the suffrages to St Anne and to St Francis. Both are impaled and probably refer to two married couples, related through male lineage, as the same arms are shared by the masculine (left side) of the first shield and the feminine (right side) of the second shield. The first coat of arms has “De gules tres fajas de plata” on the dexter side and “losanjado de oro y gules” on the sinister. The second is “De gules tres fajas de plata” and “De oro, con cinco panelas de sinople, puestas en sotuer”. Each blazon belongs to several families (see A. García Carraffa, Diccionario heráldico y genealógico, 1919-63, 88 vols.). The first shield could refer to the houses of Cano and Centelles, the Centelles being a widely spread noble family from Valencia. A marriage is recorded between Violante de Centelles (b.1385) and Angel Cano, Señor de las baronias de Coguinas (see A. Caetano de Sousa, História Genealógica da Casa Real Portuguesa, 1946, IX, p.321). They had a daughter, Antonia Cano, who was born in 1420 in Sardinia and who married twice, to Pietro Cedrelles in 1469 and to Giovanni Fabra, signore di Aladio in 1478; their coat of arms do not, however, match those in the second shield on the dexter. It is possible that Antonio Cano and Violante de Centelles had a second daughter named after her mother Violante. The shield with “De oro, con cinco hojas de higuera de sinople …” may refer to the house of Figuera originally from Galicia; this family formed relationships with some of the most important noble families in Spain and held several titles in Castile.

(2) Signed by Joseph de Ayala (f.1r), 16th or 17th century, who similarly signed the Catalonian Almugavar Hours (Baltimore, Walters W.420). He may be related to, or identical with, the José Ayala of Toledo who owned Book of Hours made in Flanders c.1500, now in Lisbon (Gulbenkian, LA 128); this and other Flemish manuscripts in Spain are discussed by J. Docampo, ‘La importación de manuscritos iluminados y su influencia en la miniatura de la Península Ibérica: 1470-1570’, in J.Y. Luaces (ed.), La miniatura medieval en la Península Ibérica, 2007, pp.255-311.

(3) The property of a noble Spanish family who has owned it for many generations.


Calendar (f.1r); Hours of the Cross (f.14); Mass of the Virgin (f.19r); Hours of the Virgin "secundum consuetudinem romane curie", with Matins (f.34r), Lauds (f.58r), Prime (f.73r), Terce (f.80r), Sext (f.86r), None (f.92r), Vespers (f.98r), Compline (f.108r), with variants for Advent etc. (f.115r); prayers to the Virgin and Christ, some with indulgences, some in Catalan (f.125r); Office of the Dead, Use of Rome (f.132r); prayers, some in Catalan (f.175v); prayers including suffrages to Sts Christopher (f.185v) and Restitutus, patron against blindness: "Comemoracio ... ad conservationem visu, cosa molt apropriada. Beatus Restitutus Tricastine Urbis episcopus  ..." (f.187r); Penitential Psalms (f.194r), litany; Hours of the Trinity (f.216r); Hours of the Holy Spirit (f.221v); prayers (f.226v); Mass of the Virgin, with prefatory prayer in Catalan (f.232r); prayers (f.238r), including the Seven Joys of the Virgin (f.239v); two suffrages to St Jerome (f.241r; cf. image on f.254v); further prayers (f.242v), one mentioning the supplicant's name twice (f.246v); suffrages to Sts Anne (f.253r) and Francis (f.255r).

There are three noteworthy features of the calendar: a number of Iberian saints, including Eulalia, patroness of Barcelona (12 February); a group of mendicant saints, including Vincent Ferrer, patron of Valencia (5 April); and the exceptionally rare St Restitutus, of St-Paul-Trois-Châteaux, in south-eastern France (7 November), to whom there is also a suffrage on f.187r-v. The most notable features of the main text are two versions of the Mass of the Virgin, and the prayers in Catalan or with Catalan rubrics.

binding and chemise

The chemise is extremely similar to one in The Hague (KB, 135 J 55), believed to be contemporary with the manuscript it encloses, which is attributed to Valencia c.1460 (see J. Storm van Leeuwen, in Vriendschap in vereniging, exh.cat., 1988, no.1 col.pls.6-7). Unsurprisingly, very few examples survive, yet they are "one of the most important developments in the history of bookbinding during the Middle Ages" (F. Bearman, 'The Origins and Significance of Two Textile Chemise Bookbindings', in Journal of the Walters Art Gallery, 45, 1996, pp.163-87, with bibliography and ills.). No precise comparison has been found for the blind-tooling of the leather covers, but the fact that the niello clasp appears to date from the 1530s, and is an addition, suggests that the binding is the original one.


This Book of Hours includes many Flemish miniatures, but it was clearly written and illuminated in Spain. Three Valencian painters were responsible for all the borders facing full-page miniatures, the two historiated initials, and two of the fifteen full-page miniatures. The other thirteen miniatures were imported from Flanders, although many faces were overpainted in the local style. Two of the three painters in the manuscript show the influence of Juan Rexach (fl.1431-82), an eminent painter and illuminator in Valencia, whose markedly Spanish style is heavily influenced by Flemish painting. One of them painted the miniature of the young Jesus with his relatives and angels, and the historiated initial for the Office of the Dead. He also repainted the faces of the women and angels in the Flemish miniatures. The hand of this illuminator can be found in the single miniature of the Annunciation in the deluxe Hours of Marques de Dos Aguas (Mallorca, Fundación Bartolomé March, MS 103-V1-3; see Un libro de horas de la casa de Dos Aguas, facsimile and commentary, 1993). The fine porcelain finish of the faces and richly patterned fabrics are nearly identical in both manuscripts. The miniature of the Virgin and Child is by a second, closely related artist whose surfaces are even more polished. A third Spanish illuminator painted the historiated initial of David in Penitence. Unlike his contemporaries, who are influenced by Flemish masters, the style of this artist is clearly indebted to French manuscript illumination.

Flemish single-leaf miniatures were often produced for export, for insertion into codices before binding. The miniatures for the present manuscript must have already been available while the Spanish painters were still at work, because the Spanish artists copy the borders of the Flemish miniatures on three text pages. It seems possible that the patron had to buy whatever miniatures were available, including some with very unusual iconography. The two angels (f.107v), for example, were perhaps originally intended to illustrate a devotion to one's Guardian Angel (cf. lot 75). Other miniatures were probably re-purposed: the Assumption and Coronation of the Virgin, for example, was probably originally intended for Compline in the Hours of the Virgin, but has been used here for a Mass of the Virgin. Perhaps no miniature of the Adoration of the Shepherds was available for Prime, hence the use instead of the Baptism of Christ in that position.

Two Bruges painters were responsible for the Flemish illumination: the Master of the Dresden Prayerbook (1465-1515) and the Master of Edward IV (1470-1500). The night-scene with Christ on the Mount of Olives is the only Flemish miniature that has not been retouched by the Master of the Hours of Marques de Dos Aguas. Most distinctive are the Dresden Master’s heavy figures with massive heads, the dramatic postures, and bold foreshortening. He was responsible for most of the miniatures in the manuscript. Especially fine is the very accomplished Mass of St Gregory which is somewhat different in style; only the face of the small angel has been overpainted in the fine smooth manner of the Valencian artist. Within the corpus of the Dresden Master’s work, the miniatures in the Carpentin Hours of c.1475 (see A. Bovey, Jean de Carpentin’s Book of Hours, 2011) and the Hours in Novà Řiše dated 1480 (see B. Brinckmann, Flämische Buchmalerei, 1997, I, pp.124-29 and II, col.pls.11-14, figs.107-10) are particularly close to our manuscript. The Novà Řiše Hours include another version of the fantastic miniature of the Trinity hovering above a deep empty landscape. The Master of Edward IV painted five of the thirteen Flemish miniatures (ff.57v, 72v, 79v, 107v, 254v). His hand is more difficult to identify because of the composite nature of all his miniatures. Quite recognizable, however, are the steeply winding rivers and short bushy trees in his landscapes, which rise high on the horizon, only to dissolve in atmospheric perspective. Most wonderful is the unusual composition with Two Angels in Mandorlas (f.107v), filled with light and set against shiny gold.

We are grateful to Joris Corin Heyder for his assistance in cataloguing this lot.

The subjects of the full-page miniatures are: (1) f.13v, Agony in the Garden, (2) f.18v, Mass of St Gregory, (3) f.33v, Annunciation, (4) f.57v, Visitation, (5) f.72v, Nativity, (6) f.79v, Adoration of the Magi, (7) f.85v, Virgin and Child Enthroned, (8) f.91v, Baptism of Christ, (9) f.97v, Christ Carrying the Cross, (10) f.107v, Two Angels in mandorlas with scrolls, (11) f.124v, Crucifixion, (12) f.215v, Trinity above an unpopulated riverscape, (13) f.231v, Assumption and Coronation of the Virgin, 14 (f.252v) Christ Child surrounded by the Holy Family and angels, (15) f.254v, Sts Jerome and Francis.

The subjects of the historiated initials are: (1) f.132r, Funeral Service, (2) f.194r, King David in Penitence.

The subjects on the niello clasp fittings are: (1) St Anthony, holding his bell, accompanied by his pig (base-plate), (2) St Eustace, dressed as a bishop, blessing a stag (catch-plate), (3) St Christoper (clasp, inner face), (4) Elijah fed by the ravens and St Michael (clasp, outer face).