The manuscript is apparently unrecorded. The text follows the Use of Paris, and the Parisian saints Geneviève, Germain, Louis and Denis are all in gold in the Calendar. A coat-of-arms has been added to the border decoration on fol. 19r and as hatchments in the funeral service shown on fol. 115v.
A Calendar, in French (fol. 1r), in red, blue and gold, with an entry or a vigil for every day; the Gospel Sequences (fol. 13r); the Hours of the Virgin [Use of Paris], with Matins (fol. 19r), Lauds (fol. 42r), Prime (fol. 52v), Terce (fol.58v), Sext (fol. 63r), None (fol. 67v), Vespers (fol. 72r) and Compline (fol. 79r); the Penitential Psalms (fol. 85r) and Litany; the Hours of the Cross (fol. 103v) and of the Holy Ghost (fol. 110r); and the Office of the Dead (fol. 115v, heading on fol. 115r specifying the Use of Paris partially erased).
The manuscript is securely attributable to the workshop and very probably the actual hand of the Boucicaut Master, the finest and most startlingly original commercial artist working in Paris at the beginning of the fifteenth century. He takes his name from the noble Book of Hours in the Musée Jacquemart-André, made for Jean de Boucicaut, marshal of France (who swaggers into Shakespeare’s Henry V on the night before Agincourt, where he was taken prisoner). “The Boucicaut Master was an artist of genius and limitless imagination. He was a superb draftsman, a brilliant and original colourist, and a conjurer of riveting and poetic images” (Thomas Kren, cited in the Los Angeles Times, 1 September 1996). “During the first decades of the fifteenth century … the Boucicaut Master was transformative, offering innovations that would shape for a generation both book painting and the rapidly emerging art of painting in oil on panel in northern Europe…”; and with the Limbourg brothers, he “elevated French manuscript illumination to new heights of originality that, even as the form continued to flourish and innovate for another hundred years, would rarely be equalled” (Kren, French Illuminated Manuscripts, 2007, p.xix). He was one of the earliest truly commercial artists in France, running and evidently tightly controlling a workshop with distinctive patterns and composition. Since the ground-breaking The Boucicaut Master by Millard Meiss, 1968, the workshop has now been divided into two extremely similar and exactly contemporaneous hands, one still known as the Boucicaut Master and the other as the Mazarine Master, named from Bibliothèque Mazarine ms. 469. The two hands use the same pattern sheets and the same pigments. They may have been brothers, or husband and wife, and one perhaps was the artist Jacque Coene first recorded in Paris in 1398. In the most recent available census by Gabriele Bartz, Der Boucicaut-Meister (Tenschert kat. XLII), 1999, 23 Books of Hours are ascribed to the Boucicaut Master and 24 to the Mazarine Master. See also E. Taburet-Delahaye and F. Avril, eds., Paris 1400, Les arts sous Charles VI, 2004; pp.280-87. We have not had access to C. M. Geisler Andrews, ‘The Boucicaut Workshop and the Commercial Production of Books of Hours in early fifteenth-century Paris’, unpublished PhD dissertation, Northwestern University, 2006.
The manuscript belongs on the Boucicaut side of the divide. Many of the miniatures have startling parallels with scenes in the Boucicaut Hours itself and others from the workshop, such as the single leaf showing a funeral sold in these rooms, 10 December 1996, lot 18 (£22,000). Here are all the characteristics of the Master, including his astonishingly innovative colours – bright pale green, vivid orange, mauve, and two types of gold. Here are the remarkable silver lattice windows streaming light (fol.19r). Figures are tall and disdainful, such as the Magi; animals simper. There are wonderful details, flowerpots on the Virgin’s windowsill, green grass in Jesus’s manger, and the priests’ lectern draped in coloured cloth.
The miniatures are:
(1) folio 19r, the Annunciation, 98mm. by 64mm., set partly within a private chapel with a vaulted starry ceiling, the Virgin with her book on the folds of her robe, Gabriel falling to his knees, God appearing in a celestial throng of cherubim in a central archway; floral border including three birds.
(2) folio 42r, the Visitation, 100mm. by 62mm., the Virgin and Saint Anne embracing, in a flower-strewn meadow, a rock to the left, tessellated ground; ivyleaf and floral border.
(3) folio 52v, the Nativity, 100mm. by 63mm., the Child in a manger of grass, the Virgin kneeling, Joseph standing, wattled enclosure, ox and ass, tessellated background; ivyleaf and floral border.
(4) folio 58v, the Annunciation to the Shepherds, 99mm. by 63mm., one shepherd seated, one standing, six sheep, a dog gazing up at a half-length angel with a banderole ‘Gloria in excelsis deo’ against a red and gold sky; ivyleaf and floral border.
(5) folio 63r, the Adoration of the Magi, 98mm. by 62mm., the Virgin and Child seated on the left, one king kneeling, two standing, the star above; ivyleaf and floral border.
(6) folio 67v, the Presentation in the Temple, 101mm. by 62mm., the Virgin and her maidservant standing with the Child, Simeon waiting across the altar with his hands beneath a cloth, tessellated ground; ivyleaf and floral border.
(7) folio 72r, the Flight into Egypt, 102mm. by 60mm., Joseph looking back as he leads the donkey through a flowery meadow, tessellated ground; ivyleaf and floral border.
(8) folio 85r, God enthroned in majesty, 95mm. by 64mm., seated on an architectural throne with the Sacraments on one pillar and the Commandments on the other, the symbols of the Evangelists hovering in each corner, dark red starry ground; floral border including a bird.
(9) folio 103v, the Crucifixion, 97mm. by 64mm., the Virgin and Saint John standing at the sides, dark red ground heightened in gold with an arc of blue sky above with sun, moon and stars; ivyleaf and floral border.
(10) folio 115v, a funeral Mass, 100mm. by 62mm., a bier in the foreground behind two lighted tapers, three priests singing from a book on the left, three hooded mourners on the right, background of lush green plantstems on a burnished gold ground; ivyleaf and floral border.
The smaller miniatures show: 1, a man warming his hands by a fire (fol. 1r), 2, gathering firewood (fol.2r), 3, planting shrubs (fol.3r), 4, carrying bunches of flowers (fol.4r), 5, riding a white horse (fol.5r), 6, mowing (fol.6r), 7, harvesting wheat (fol.7r), 8, threshing (fol.8r), 9, trampling grapes (fol.9r), 10, sowing (fol.10r), 11, knocking down acorns for pigs (fol.11r), 12, killing a pig (fol.12r), 13, Saint John on Patmos (fol.13r), 14, Saint Luke writing at a desk (fol.14r), 15, Saint Matthew writing a scroll on his lap (fol.15v), and 16, Saint Mark at his desk (fol.17r).
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