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Details & Cataloguing

Western Manuscripts & Miniatures

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London

The Virgin and Child, miniature on a leaf from an illuminated Book of Hours, on vellum [southern Netherlands (probably Bruges), first decades of sixteenth century]
single leaf, 124mm. by 95mm., with a large miniature of the Virgin in a blue robe, her hair held back by a delicate jewelled headband, offering her breast to a white-haired Christ-Child, the child clothed in a diaphanous robe picked out with hairline white brushstrokes, all within a border of flowers and insects on a liquid gold ground, verso blank, slight cockling, small marks to Virgin’s face, tiny flakes in places, and edges of leaf perforated (perhaps from being stitched into a later devotional volume), else excellent condition, framed
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Catalogue Note

With the exception of Christ as Salvator Mundi, this is the most well-known and widely disseminated devotional image of late medieval northern Europe, and was central to the faith of almost every inhabitant of the Low Countries and England (cf. Illuminating the Renaissance, 2003, fig.110b, p.373, for an early sixteenth-century painting of Margaret Tudor in prayer as the same image appears to her above an altar, and Smeyers and Van der Stock, Flemish Illuminated Manuscripts, 1996, fig.1.25, p.106, for a portrait of Saint Luke painting the same image). Influential models for this image survive in the miniature painted by the Master of the David Scenes in the Grimani Breviary in the Hours of Joanna of Castile (British Library, Additional MS.18852: Illuminating the Renaissance, pp.385-6) and that by Gerard David c.1505-10 (surviving as a single leaf, now Morgan MS. M.659: ibid., pp.363-64), and the present miniature shares much with them and is perhaps their equal. The child’s diaphanous robe may descend from another variant of this scene painted by Simon Bening and Gerard David (ibid., no.142, p.453), but the child’s wispy white hair, high forehead and detailed features are without obvious parallel, and would seem to be an innovation of the present artist.

Western Manuscripts & Miniatures

|
London