Lot 60
  • 60

Book of Hours, Use of Bourges, in Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [northern France (Paris), c.1470]

30,000 - 50,000 GBP
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  • Vellum
204 leaves (plus one paper flyleaf at each end), 103mm. by 71mm., three leaves with miniatures wanting at the beginning of Prime, Terce and Compline in the Hours of the Virgin and a final text leaf, else complete, collation: i12, ii-ix8, x7 (viii wanting), xi8, xii7 (viii wanting), xiii-xiv8, xv7 (iv wanting), xvi4, xvii-xxvi8, xxvii7 (viii wanting), single column, 15 lines in a fine gothic bookhand, written space 102mm. by 35mm., rubrics in blue and on one occasion in red, one- to 3-line initials and line-fillers in gold on brown grounds, 3-line initials in blue with white penwork on burnished gold grounds with red and blue ivy leaves, sixteen small miniatures by Maître François (most probably François Le Barbierwith three-sided borders of coloured acanthus and flowers (fols.15v, 18r, 20v, 47v, 48v, 49r, 50v, 190r, 191r, 192r, 194v, 196v, 197v, 198r, 199v, 202r),  twelve three-quarter page miniatures with arched tops by the same artist, and full foliate borders as before, the borders including a fox preaching to ducks and geese, ferrets, peacocks, birds, butterflies, flies, a squirrel, a frog, a monkey with bow and arrow, a deer smiling at a grasshopper, cockerels, a wild man fighting a snail, a goat climbing a tree and other fantastical figures, pencil inscription ‘No1443’ inside upper cover, original owner’s arms and motto on fol.53r erased, some borders very slightly rubbed, else in excellent condition, late eighteenth- or early nineteenth-century red leather binding with gilt double-fillet and edges, and gilt title ‘Heures’ on spine, small chips and bumps at edges


(1) Written and illuminated in Paris c.1470, most probably for a young man named William who lived in Bourges. His elegant portrait on fol.22r shows him kneeling in prayer before the Virgin and Child, introduced by his patron saint, William of Maleval (who founded the Williamite branch of the Augustinians, and here holds as his attribute a helmet, and reappears with the same attribute at the beginning of his suffrage on fol.198r). Two wild men hold a shield with the owner’s heraldic arms and a scroll with a partly erased motto, in the lower border at the beginning of the Hours of the Virgin (fol.53r). The Use is that of Bourges, and the owner most probably lived there, but sent to Paris for his commission.

(2) Jean Hersent of Paris: his early twentieth-century armorial book-plate inside upper cover, and inscribed with his “no12”. Another magnificent Book of Hours from his library was sold in our rooms, 1 July 2013, lot 65.

Catalogue Note


The text includes: a Calendar (fols.1r-12v); the Gospel Sequences (fols.13r-21v); the Obsecro te (fols.22r-27v); the O intemerata and other prayers (fols.27v-47r); Suffrages to female saints (fols.47v-52v); the Hours of the Virgin with Matins (fols.53r-68r), Lauds (fols.68v-83v), Prime (fols.84r-91v), Terce (fols.92r-96r), Sext (fols.96v-101r), None (fols.101v-106r), Vespers (fols.106v-109v), Compline (fols.110r-116v, followed by a blank leaf); the Penitential Psalms (fols.118r-140v) with a litany starting on fol.135r; the Hours of the Cross (fols.141r-145v); the Hours of the Holy Spirit (fols.146r-150v); the Office of the Dead (fols.151r-173r); Prayer to the Trinity and other prayers (fols.174r-290v); Suffrages to male saints (fols.291r-201v); prayer for the dead (fols.202r-204r), and a prayer to Christ (fol.204r).


The miniatures in this fine Book of Hours are among the best work of Maître François, painted in semi-grisaille on an intimate scale. Maître François was one of the leading artists who dominated book illumination in Paris during the third quarter of the fifteenth century. He was known to be the documented painter of a two-volume French translation of Augustine’s Cité de Dieu (Paris, BnF, fr.18-19), bearing the arms of Charles de Gaucourt, Governor of Amiens and appointed Lieutenant General of Paris in 1472. Robert Gaguin, a general of the Trinitarian order, wrote to Gaucourt in 1473 that after sending the iconographic program and directions for the miniatures for the Cité de Dieu to the celebrated painter François (“egregius pictor Franciscus”), he approved of the completed work, praising his perfect craftsmanship. Maître François has now been identified with François Le Barbier who lived in the 1460s on the bridge of Notre-Dame (see M. Deldicque in Revue de l'Art, no.183, 2014, pp.9-18). François was a very successful illuminator and he worked not only for members of the court and the aristocracy in Paris, but also for members of the courts of Anjou and Maine.

This Book of Hours belongs to a small group of works painted in semi-grisaille, using predominantly white, pale mauves and greys especially for garments. Other examples include the Wharncliffe Hours (Melbourne, National Gallery, MS. Felton 1072/3), a Book of Hours in London (British Library, Egerton MS.2045) and the Hours of Rene II of Lorraine (Lisbon, Gulbenkian Museum, MS.L.A.147). The architectural frames of the miniatures here, the doll-like figures with their neatly combed hair and the carefully rendered buildings and landscapes set this among the best of François’s productions.

The large miniatures comprise: (i) fol.13r, St. John on Patmos with his attribute, the eagle, in a wide rocky landscape; (ii) fol. 22r, a young man kneeling in prayer, introduced by his patron St. William of Maleval to the Virgin and Child in an elegant interior; (iii) fol. 53r, the Annunciation to the Virgin; (iv) fol. 68v, the Visitation of the Virgin to St. Elisabeth; (v) fol. 96v, the Adoration of the Three Magi; (vi) fol. 101v, the Presentation in the Temple with the Christ Child turning to his mother; (vii) fol. 106v, the Flight into Egypt with the Christ Child hugging his mother; (viii) fol. 118r, David in Prayer, kneeling in front of a diptych, in a contemporary architectural setting; (ix) fol. 141r, the Crucifixion of Christ; (x) fol. 146r, the Pentecost with the Virgin in the centre; (xi) fol. 151r, a Skeleton attacking a young man with a long red spear; (xii) fol. 174r, the Trinity with God the Father and Christ holding an enormous book, the Holy Spirit in form of a dove hovering above.