(1) Both content and decoration show that the manuscript was made in Bruges. The calendar includes the feast of St Basil (14 June) to whom the lower chapel below the Basilica of the Holy Blood was dedicated, and Donatian (14 Oct.) to whom the cathedral was dedicated.
(2) 'Harold Acton, Esq.' (perhaps the writer, scholar, and dilettante of this name, born in 1904, whose father was an art collector and dealer); sold in our rooms as his property, 16 June 1930, lot 326, bought by Abraham for £36.
(3) In an unidentified American bookseller’s catalogue, no.35, priced $2,000 (clipping, front pastedown).
text and illumination
Calendar with an entry for every day (f.1r); Gospel extracts (f.13r); ‘Obsecro te’ (f.20r), ‘O intemerata’ (f.24v); suffrages (f.30r); Mass of the Virgin (f.32r); Hours of the Virgin, Use of Rome, with Matins (f.39r), Lauds (f.53v), Prime (f.69r), Terce (f.75v), Sext (f.81v), None (f.87r), Vespers (f.92v), Compline (f.102v), with variant Psalms for different days of the week (f.109r); Penitential Psalms (f.127r), litany (f.143r), petitions and collects; Hours of the Cross (f.155r) and of the Holy Spirit (f.159v); Office of the Dead, Use of Rome (f.164r); suffrages (f.211r).
The illumination was probably executed c.1460s in Bruges where the Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good, had many manuscripts illuminated by WILLEM VRELANT, who was active there from 1454 until his death in 1481 (see B. Bousmanne, "Item a Guillaume Wyelant aussi enlumineur", 1997). Vrelant's style is defined by carefully drawn figures and the use of matt local colours, notably ultramarines and rich burgundies. The doll-like figures with serene expressions create a calm atmosphere. The small size of this Book of Hours enabled the owner to carry it around and to keep it close. In spite of their size the miniatures are incredibly detailed; there are no concessions to scale.
The subjects of the large miniatures are: (1) f.30r, John the Baptist; (2) f.31r, Catherine; (3) f.32r, Virgin and Child enthroned; (4) f.39r, Annunciation; (5) f.53v, Visitation; (6) f.69r, Nativity; (7) f.75v, Shepherds; (8) f.81v, Adoration of the Magi; (9) f.87r, Presentation in the Temple; (10) f.92v, Massacre of the Innocents; (11) f.102v, Flight into Egypt; (12) f.127r, Last Judgement; (13) f.155r, Crucifixion; (14) f.159v, Pentecost; (15) f.164r, Raising of Lazarus.
The subjects of the historiated initials are: (1) f.13r, John on Patmos; (2) f.20r, Pietà; (3) f.24v, Virgin and Child.
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