(1) The Book of Hours was made for a woman, pictured as a young patroness in prayer (f.31r). Her coat of arms features in two miniatures as part of the architectural frame (ff. 9v and 29v: parti, au premier émanché d'or et d'azur, au second coupé d'or sur azur à la bande de gueules brochant sur le coupé). The feminine (right side) can be identified with the La Chapelle family of Belgium (Rietstap, I, p.403). The masculine (left side) relates either to the Chassecourtes of Marche (Rietstap, I, p.407) or the Saméon of Tournais (Rietstap, II, p.663). The composition for the miniature with the portrait is similar to that of two portraits included in the Hours of Maria Maddalena Negrone illuminated by the Master of the David Scenes (priv. coll.; see Heribert Tenschert, Leuchtendes Mittelalter, Neue Folge V, 2008, no.26; and E. Morrison in Illuminating the Renaissance, 2003, pp.387-89). In both manuscripts, the patroness is wearing an Italianate dress and hair arrangement. The coat of arms in the Negrone Hours was used by the Negrone family of Genoa. It could well be that the young woman pictured in the present Book of Hours and identified as a member of the La Chapelle family from the southern Netherlands married into the Italian family Chassecourtes.
(2) JEAN-BAPTISTE PARIS DE MEYZIEU (1718-78), French bibliophile: his arms on binding and slipcase: d’or à la fasce d’azur, chargée d’une pomme d’or (cf. J. Guigard, Nouvel armorial du bibliophile, 1890, II, p.386; Olivier, Manuel de l'amateur des reliures armoriées françaises, series V, 1925, p.516; M. McC. Gatch, 'The Bibliotheca Parisina', The Library, 12 (2011), pp.90-118).
TEXT AND ILLUMINATION
Calendar (f.2v); prayer 'Salve sancta facies' (f.10r); Hours of the Cross (f.13r) and the Holy Spirit (f.22r); Mass of the Virgin (f.30r), introitus (f.31r); Gospel extracts (f.36v); Hours of the Virgin 'secundum usum Romane ecclesie', with Matins (f.45r), Lauds (f.67r), Prime (f.81r), Terce (f.87r), Sext (f.93r), None (f.99r), Vespers (f.105r), Compline (f.114r); Advent Office (f.122r); Obsecro te (f.133r) and O intemerata (f.137v); Penitential Psalms (f.143r), litany (f.156v); Office of the Dead (f.168r); Athanasian Creed (f.218r).
This tiny jewel of a manuscript belongs to a small group of Books of Hours produced by the so-called Ghent-Bruges school around 1500, in which the text is accompanied by painted single subjects placed in the otherwise blank margins. A large variety of flowers and birds interspersed with snails, flies, butterflies, dragonflies, strawberries, jewels and grotesque figures decorate the manuscript on all text pages; occasionally, other motifs occur, such as a wild boar, a grey hare, a cat holding a fish between its teeth, an elaborate bird’s cage and other delightfully observed objects. This group of manuscripts is the subject of a recent book: A.M. As-Vijvers, Re-Making the Margin, 2013. The present manuscript, hitherto unpublished, was unknown to the author. She suggests that this decorative system was created by the MASTER OF THE DAVID SCENES IN THE GRIMANI BREVIARY, a prolific inventor of appealing borders, named after a series of unusual scenes concerning King David in the famous manuscript in the Biblioteca Marciana, Venice. This view has been challenged by Eberhard König (Das Flämische Stundenbuch der Maria von Medici, 2011), especially because the isolated motifs do not feature in the artist’s eponymous work. For Elizabeth Morrison, the most distinctive feature of the Master of the David Scenes is his inexhaustible iconographic imagination (‘Iconographic Originality in the Oeuvre of the Master of the David Scenes’, in Flemish Manuscript Painting in Context, 2006, pp.149-62). Instead of seeing him as the workshop leader in charge of the spectacular Hours of Queen Joanna in the British Library, or – in the case of As-Vijvers – the creator of the single isolated marginal subjects, she defines him as a younger artist who contributed some of the finest miniatures to the routine work of a team of well-known established artists. Stylistically, the miniatures in this manuscript belong indeed to the production associated with the Master of the David Scenes. Most characteristic are the borders around some of the miniatures, featuring architectural elements combined into fantastic edifices. The remarkable deathbed scene with a naked man lying on a bed, accompanied by two members of the clergy praying for his soul which is the object of dispute between the devil and the angel above, is typically found in some of the works of the Master of the David Scenes.
The subjects of the large miniatures are: (1) f.9v, Christ Blessing; (2) f.12v, Crucifixion; (3) f.21v, Pentecost; (4) f.29v, Virgin and Child; (5) f.44v, Annunciation to the Virgin; (6) f.66v, Visitation; (7) f.80v, Nativity; (8) f.86v, Annunciation to the Shepherds; (9) f.92v, Adoration of the Magi; (10) f.98v, Presentation in the Temple; (11) f.104v, Massacre of the Innocents; (12) f.113v, Flight into Egypt; (13) f.121v, Coronation of the Virgin; (14) f.142v, David in Prayer; (15) f.167v, Death of a naked Man.
The subject of the half-page miniature is: f.31r, A young Woman in Prayer.
The subjects of the small miniatures are: (1) f.36v, St John the Evangelist on Patmos; (2) f.38r, St Luke at his desk; (3) f.39v, St Matthew writing; (4) f.42r, St Mark writing.
The subjects of the historiated borders are the labours of the months and the corresponding signs of the zodiac: (1) f.2v, Man warming himself by the fire and Aquarius for January; (2) f.3r, Men pruning vines and Pisces for February; (3) f.3v, Men digging the earth and Aries for March; (4) f.4r, Courting couples and Taurus for April; (5) f.4v, An aristocratic boating-party and Gemini for May; (6) f.5r, Men mowing grass to make hay and Cancer for June; (7) f.5v, Men harvesting corn and Leo for July; (8) f.6r, Men threshing and Virgo for August; (9) f.6v, Men trampling grapes and Libra for September; (10) f.7r, Men sowing and Scorpio for October; (11), f.7v, Man butchering a pig and Sagittarius for November; (12) f.8r, Men preparing meat and Capricorn for December.
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