Lot 45
  • 45

The Ascension of Mary Magdalene, historiated initial on a monumental leaf from the Gradual of Louis XII and Anne of Brittany, in Latin [France (Paris), c.1498]

3,000 - 5,000 GBP
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  • ink and pigment on paper
single leaf, 685x515mm, vellum, with a large initial ‘G’, 160x180mm, and partial borders for the feast of St Mary Magdalene (22 July), 6 lines of text and music on four-line red staves, 512x346mm, rastrum 42-43mm, recto with large decorated initial, 74x91mm, and partial border and original foliation ‘XXVII’ in red ink in the centre of the upper margin, faint creases and small pigment losses, vellum stained towards edges

Catalogue Note


This monumental manuscript was made for King Louis XII, king of France (reigned 1498-1515) and his second wife, Anne of Brittany, whom he married in 1499 and who died in 1514. Mutilated fragments of the manuscript were first described by Le Roux de Lincy, La Vie de la Reine Anne de Bretagne, 1860-61, II, p.86. For a summary of the surviving fragments, see C. de Hamel, Gilding the Lilly, 2010, no.83, recording only one complete text leaf, now Wellesley College (Massachusetts), MS.6; fragments have appeared in our rooms recently: 2 July 2013, lot 7 (lower corner of a leaf) and 3 December 2013, lot 15 (six initials).

The illuminator of a cutting with a historiated initial showing Louis XII and Anne of Brittany adoring the Crown of Thorns was identified as the Master of Philippe de Gueldres (now Nantes, Musée Dobrée; see Les Enluminures, Catalogue 3, 1994, no.28). The illumination can, however, be attributed to JEAN COENE (cf. following lot).

Many fragments, most of them border cuttings, include the royal arms of France surmounted by a crown, the initials ‘A’ (Anne) and ‘L’ (Louis), and the ermine of Brittany (Anne’s emblem). The Wellesley leaf also includes the arms of France quartered with Milan, perhaps indicating that the manuscript was being illuminated during the short period when Louis was both King of France and Duke of Milan (6 Sept. 1499-5 Feb. 1500). The present leaf includes the arms of France, the letters ‘L’ and also the arms of Orléans, designating Louis when he was Duke of Orléans before his accession to the throne of France on 7 April 1498.