115 leaves, 180mm. by 135mm., wanting leaves after fols.27 and 33, else complete, collation: i3 (all singletons), ii-iv8, v6, vi-vii8, viii2, ix-xv8, xvi6, xvii2, modern pencil pagination, single column, 15 lines in a professional gothic script in black ink, rubrics in red, numerous one-line initials in blue with red penwork, other one- to two-line initials in burnished gold on variegated blue and burgundy grounds (99 with single-line foliage sprays in margin terminating in small coloured flowers), with line fillers to match, 3 pages with borders of gold, burgundy and blue bars and foliage, often enclosing text on three sides, and terminating in drollery creatures in upper margin (pp.19, 40, 133), nineteen large miniatures in rectangular frames (all approximately 85mm. by 75mm.; pp.1, 37, 39, 41, 49, 56, 58, 60, 65, 67, 69, 81, 83, 85, 92, 94, 97, 132, 214), all but 2 above 3-line coloured initials on gold grounds and enclosed within text frames as before, terminating in dragons, a pair of birds hunting a fish and a dove, human heads, and minstrels playing musical instruments, one full page miniature (p.217), occasional scuffing and rubbing to miniatures and borders, else good condition, some discolouration and damage to a small number of leaves (especially pp.1 and 123-9), else good, nineteenth-century olive morocco over bevelled wooden boards
1. Produced for a female patron (prayers for St.Christopher at end of volume in feminine forms), most probably in the vicinity of Poitiers: SS. Hilary of Poitiers and Leodgar, bishop of Autun, in Litany. She was perhaps the local wife of a member of the English occupying forces during the Hundred Years' War. After the triumph of the Battle of Poitiers on 19 September 1356 and the Treaty of Brétigny in 1360, Edward, the Black Prince (1330-76), held the whole of Aquitaine (nearly a third of France) as a duchy. The English remained in control of the region until King Charles V of France repudiated the treaty in 1369, renewed the war, and Aquitaine was gradually lost over the course of the next decade. The book then appears to have passed into French ownership, receiving the smudged eighteenth-century signature of "La Fresnaye" on its last flyleaf.
2. Ampleforth MS.187 (previously 60): their purple inkstamp on front flyleaf, and among their possessions since the late nineteenth century: J. Stevenson, HMC, Second Report, 1871, p.109, no.12.
The volume comprises: a Calendar (p.i; November and December only); Hours of the Virgin, intermingled with Hours of Cross and Holy Spirit, with Matins (p.1), Lauds (19), Prime (41), Terce wanting, Sext (49), None (60), Vespers (69), Compline (85); Penitential Psalms (97) with a Litany (119); Office of the Dead (133); Obsecro te (197) and O intemerata (203); the Passion from Gospel of John (209); prayers on the instruments of the Passion and St. Christopher (214); lection from the Gospel of John (218).
This is a charming and notably early example of French book illumination. The miniatures are well executed, and have a wealth of detail which along with the swirling foliage of the border decoration and drollery-creatures, convey the brisk and whimsical style characteristic of fourteenth-century art. Of particular note is the rare scene which accompanies Vespers for the Hours of the Cross, the Descent of the Holy Spirit with a small black devil in flight, more famously known from the miniature by Jean Fouquet from the Hours of Etienne Chevalier (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lehman 1975.1.2490). The Roman soldiers in the miniatures on pp. 37 and 65 seem to be dressed in the armour of fourteenth-century English knights, with bulbous conical helmets and chainmail neckguards which hang low over their shoulders. These are perhaps studies from life included to amuse the patrons of the occupation forces.
The miniatures comprise:
(1) p.1, the Annunciation to the Virgin, all before a tessellated gold, burgundy and blue background, border frame terminating in a human head with an animal-headed hat and a dragon; (2) p.37, the Kiss of Judas, before a burnished gold background, two minstrels blowing horns in border; (3) p.39, God the Father seated, holding Christ on the Cross as the Holy Spirit descends; (4) p.41, the Visitation, two interlocking dragons in border; (5) p.49, Annunciation to the Shepherds, a dragon in border; (6) p.56, the Crucifixion, a soldier with a bucket pressing the sponge filled with vinegar to Christ's lips, a dragon and a human-headed drollery in the border; (7) p.58, Christ appearing to his followers, a hawk with a dove and a crane with a fish in the border; (8) p.60, the Flight into Egypt, a dragon biting its own back in the border; (9) p.65, the Crucifixion with Longinus piercing Christ's side, two human-headed drolleries in border, one with a large red bell for a hat, the other using a small hammer to strike a blue bell at the end of his own hood; (10) p.67, Pentecost, with a dog-headed drollery in border; (11) p.69, the Adoration of the Magi, with a dragon and a human-headed drollery blowing a horn in border; (12) p.81, the Deposition from the Cross, a dragon in the border; (13) p.83, the Descent of the Holy Spirit, a dragon in the border; (14) p.85, the Presentation in the Temple, with a dragon in the border; (15) p.92, the Entombment of Christ, with a bird and a multi-coloured dragon in the border; (16) p.94, the Last Judgement, with a dragon and a human-headed drollery in the border; (17) p.97, God the Father seated holding a sceptre, a human-headed drollery blowing a horn in the border; (18) p.132, four tonsured monks singing from an open choirbook before an altar; (19) p.214, Christ holding the Cross and a scroll with inscription "Ego Sum", before the instruments of the Passion; (20) p.217, full-page miniature, 75mm. by 105mm., with St. Christopher carrying the Christ Child.
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