Lot 18
  • 18

St Nicholas, full-page miniature from the Knyvett Hours, in Latin [England, East Anglia?, late 14th century]

12,000 - 18,000 GBP
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  • ink, vellum
single leaf, c.200x135mm, vellum, with a miniature for the suffrage of St Nicholas, the verso ruled for up to 23 lines, written with 10 lines, with the text of the suffrage to St Nicholas with illuminated initial, border, and heraldic shield, the lower right area of the miniature somewhat rubbed, the pigments (and silver?) of the shields darkened, the verso with minor stains and offsets, framed

Catalogue Note


(1) The parent volume had 32 full-page miniatures, all depicting saints, including a unique and unexplained series of six devoted to Mary Magdalene. Other features that are rare or unique among English Books of Hours are the inclusion of the Penitential Psalms in rhyming French verse (in addition to the Penitential Psalms in Latin), and the presence of very unusual verses in French before some of the Suffrages. The borders of some miniatures have the letters ‘k’, ‘n’, ‘e’, ‘y’, ‘f’, and ‘t’ – usually in that order – which suggest patronage by the well-known Knyvett family of East Anglia, even though the heraldry that occurs on many leaves does not seem to relate to their known arms. (2) The parent volume inscribed ‘Thys is mistrys marys boke. G.’ and ‘Marset Alouf’; it has been suggested that Marset was the daughter of John Alouf, a member of Henry VI's court who received lands in 1438 in recognition of 28 years of service to the king. (3) In the early 16th century the volume was rebound by Gerard Pilgrim (d.1536), who worked in Oxford. (4) Owned by Thomas Boykott (bookplate, dated 1761); it then passed, presumably by descent, to Mrs Wight-Boycott of Rudge Hall, Pattingham, Wolverhampton, who sold it in our rooms, 3–5 June 1918, lot 259, to Quaritch for £170; Quaritch, Catalogue of Illuminated and other Manuscripts, 1931, no.56, with two plates (it is from this catalogue that much of our knowledge of the parent manuscript comes); sold by Quaritch in 1941 to H.P. Kraus, who sold it to the dealer Rudolf Wien, also of New York, who apparently broke it up (at least five miniatures were sold back to Kraus, and two were sold in our rooms 9 February 1948, lots 215 and 216).


(5) H.P. Kraus, The Eightieth Catalogue [1956], no.16a (ill.). (6) Sold in our rooms, 21 June 1994, lot 25 (ill.); subsequently Bruce Ferrini, Catalogue 3: Medieval & Renaissance Miniature Paintings, 1995, no.18 (col.ill.). (7) Berger Collection Educational Trust, on deposit at the Denver Art Museum.


The highly eccentric decorative repertoire and the patterns that occupy the lower part of each miniature suggest that the illuminator may have been working at some distance from London and the mainstream of book-production – perhaps in Norfolk or Suffolk if the patron was indeed a member of the Knyvett family. Even commonly-depicted saints are represented in unusual ways: in the present miniature of St Nicholas, for example, he is depicted not with three boys in a pickling-tub, as would be normal, but with a single boy who has been butchered, with his blood pouring out of the sides of the barrel.

Two miniatures and a text leaf are in the LA County Museum of Art; two more are in the Ringling Museum, Sarasota; three are in private collections in New York. The most recent to appear at auction were: St George (Korner sale in our rooms, 7 July 2007, lot 107, recently stolen from a private collection and not yet recovered), and St Christopher (sold in our rooms, 2 July 2013, lot 29; exhibited with three others at the Getty Museum, 2014–15).

From the same manuscript as the following lot.