(1) Written and illuminated for export to England probably in Bruges: the calendar includes English saints in red (Hugh of Lincoln, King Edmund, 17 and 20 Nov.), and others in black (‘Elphegi’, ‘Dunsti archiepiscopi’, ‘Zwichini’, ‘Oswaldi’), and the litany has Edith. (2) There are offprints of pilgrim’s badges on f.1r, and several pages (clearest at ff.25v–26r) have rust-coloured offsets caused by a reader leaving a pair of spectacles inside the closed book. (3) Probably in Recusant ownership at the Reformation, as the feasts and prayers to Thomas Becket have not been effaced. (4) Baron James Mayer de Rothschild (1792–1868), ‘the single most powerful Rothschild banker … by far the richest man in France’: his circular printed label (inscribed ‘12’ or ‘18’?); thence to his widow Betty (d.1886) and their son: (5) Baron Edmond James de Rothschild (1845–1934): no.49 in the posthumous list prepared by Maurice Ettinghausen in 1936 (‘MS 49’ is erased below the circular label (cf. Hidden Friends: The Comites Latentes Collection, 1985, ill. on p.). (6) Miriam Caroline Alexandrine de Rothschild (1884–1965), confiscated by the Nazis, recorded in the Répertoire des biens spoliés , p.32 no.373; restituted to her by 1950; included in her anonymous sale at Haus der Bücher and L’Art Ancien, Manuskripte und Inkunabeln, 17 June 1964, lot 250. For further details see C. de Hamel, The Rothschilds and Their Collections of Illuminated Manuscripts, 2005, pp.18–25, 35 no.373, 37, 49, and 55 no.49.
The sequence and selection of texts is found in a large number of those made in Bruges for English patrons: Calendar (f.1r); The Fifteen Os (f.8r); Suffrages to the Trinity and saints (f.17r); Hours of the Virgin ‘secundum usum Sarum’ (f.41r), with the Hours of the Holy Cross intermixed, and Lauds followed by suffrages; Bonaventure’s Carmina super canticum Salve regina (f.90v), ‘Obsecro te’, ‘O intemerata’, hymn ‘Ave mundi spes Maria’, the Seven Joys of the Virgin (f.102v), and other prayers; the Seven Penitential Psalms (f.116r), Fifteen Gradual Psalms, litany (f.126v) and collects; Office of the Dead (f.136r); Commendation of Souls (f.165r); Psalms of the Passion (f.181r); Psalter of St Jerome (f.190r), preceded (f.187v) by a rubric and prayer.
Illumination in Bruges in the third quarter of the 15th century was dominated by Willem Vrelant and other artists who emulated his style to a greater or lesser degree. His style clearly appealed to aristocratic contemporaries: Willem was commissioned to produce miniatures for the Hours of Mary of Burgundy, for the Chronicles of Hainault of Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy, and works for other members of the court. The present manuscript exemplifies a taste for miniatures with predominantly deep, rich, reds, blues, and green, and extremely crisply defined foliate borders.
The subjects of the miniatures are: (1) Christ blessing, holding an orb (f.7v), (2) Gnadenstuhl Trinity (f.16v), (3) John the Baptist (f.19v), (4) John the Evangelist (f.21v), (5) Martyrdom of St Thomas Becket (f.23v), (6) St George (f.26v), (7) St Christopher (f.28v), (8) St Anne, Mary and the Christ child ‘Anne selbstdritt’ (f.30v), (9) St Catherine (f.32v), (10) St Barbara (f.34v), (11) St Mary Magdalene (f.36v), (12) St Margaret (f.36v), (13) Christ on the Mount of Olives (f.40v), (14) Betrayal of Christ (f.49v), (15) Christ before Pilate who washes his hands (f.65v), (16) Flagellation (f.70v), (17) Christ carrying the Cross (f.74v), (18) Crucifixion (f.78v), (19) Descent from the Cross (f.82v), (20) Entombment (f.85v), (21) Last Judgement (f.115v), (22) Raising of Lazarus (f.135v), (23) Angels lifting souls to heaven (f.164v), (24) Christ as Man of Sorrow with the Instruments of the Passion (f.180v), (25) St Jerome (f.189v).
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