(2) This Bible may have a shared provenance with the celebrated Northumberland Bestiary (sold in our rooms, 29 November 1990, lot 101, for £2,970,000, and now Getty Museum, MS.100). Both are grand books of near identical age, and both have a North English provenance. They were most probably shelved side-by-side in the nineteenth century (this is Alnwick MS.448 and the Bestiary was 447; see also their listing together in the HMC. Third Report, 1872, p.112), and may have entered the castle together. The Bestiary had belonged by the seventeenth century to Grace Fitzjames (along with many other books in the library at Alnwick), whose granddaughter married Algernon, Duke of Somerset (1684-1750), who succeeded to the Percy estates in 1748 and was made the 1st Earl of Northumberland in 1749. If this is correct, then it seems possible that this manuscript has never been sold before, and probable that it has not changed hands (except by descent) in three centuries. It was certainly at Alnwick Castle by the mid-nineteenth century, and is in the armorial binding of Algernon Percy, 4th Duke of Northumberland (1792-1865), with his gilt-tooled arms (crescent surrounding a roundel per pale sable and gules charged with a fetterlock, within the insignia of the Order of the Garter, crowned) in the centre of each board, and frequent inkstamps of a crescent surmounted by a coronet in margins and blank space of leaves throughout.
The text of this Vulgate Bible is that of a normal thirteenth-century Bible as catalogued by Ker (MMBL, I, pp.96-97), with the exception of the losses from the Minor Prophets, the placement of Colossians after Thessalonians, and variant prologues of St. Jerome before I-II Chronicles, Tobit, the second prologue to Job, that preceeding Baruch, as well as those before I Maccabees and the Apocalypse. The book ends with the standard Interpretations of Hebrew names, opening “Aaz apprehendans …”.
The decoration of the present manuscript is particularly close to the prefatory cycle of illumination in another contemporary Bible in the British Library (Arundel MS.250), which N. Morgan has placed in a group of manuscripts including the lavish Carrow Psalter (c.1250-60; Baltimore, Walters Art Gallery, MS.W.34: Early Gothic Manuscripts, II, 1988, p.88). The latter is from East Anglia, and perhaps Norwich, and the present manuscript may well be from there.
The artist’s figure style is energetic and inventive, but on occasion provincial. He achieves a luxurious impression through heavy use of gold and from fine pouncing. He is characterised by his distinctive black drawing for figures and accessories and his abundant use of thick white for modelling. However, his skill is revealed when he turns to drawing rather than painting, and the delicate marginal drawings softly coloured with light brown and green washes of the Virgin and Child and an Ox are of notable refinement. This art had been practiced in England since the late Anglo-Saxon period, but blossomed there in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, particularly in monastic scriptoria, reaching its peak in the work of the early thirteenth-century chronicler Matthew Paris (ibid. I, p.28, and Pen and Parchment, 2009, especially no.41 and nos.29-30, 42-43). Here the drawings are used as a form of visual gloss, directing the reader’s attention to the openings of the relevant texts: the beginning of the Canticles and the Gospel of Luke.
The illuminations include: (i) fol.1r, 7-line historiated initial with St. Jerome seated at his desk, the tail of the initial trailing almost the entire text-column in height; (ii) fol.4r, large initial ‘T’, the entire height of the page, with seven scenes from the Creation, accompanied by a silver peacock with a delicately painted green tail, in the lower margin, who pecks at a penwork bezant at the end of a bar of spiky red and blue penwork decoration; (iii) fol.159v, large initial ‘I’ enclosing King David playing his harp; (iv) fol.180r, historiated initial with the Judgment of Solomon; (v) fol.294r, historiated initial with St. Matthew writing at his desk; (vi) fol.326r, historiated initial with St. Paul Preaching; plus the two coloured drawings of the Virgin and Child (fol. 189r) and Luke’s attribute the Ox (fol.306r).
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