1274. [Book of Hours - Bruges]
12mo (8,8 x 6,4 cm), writing area (5 x 3,5 cm): 196 ff., Latin manuscript on fine vellum, 16 ll. in the Calendar, 15 in the text, written in red and brown in a fine gothica rotunda hand. Fifteen full-page miniatures with full border decoration, as well as full borders on the facing folios, and eleven small miniatures (two miniatures sl. rubbed on ff. [26v] and [32v] and sl. offset on f. [27r], f.  with a tiny tear in the ill. border and a sm. hole with loss of a few letters, some prayers on ff. [27-28],  and  obliterated in red, text on f. [196v] scratched with ink residue, tiny wormholes in first and last ff., sl. trimmed, mod. ms. foliation in bl. margins with some mistakes).
Old pink velvet binding, spine with 4 raised bands, a.e.g. (sl. rubbed, tiny worm tracks on upper pastedown and flyleaf). In a slipcase. With wide margins on text leaves and in overall fine condition.
Splendid copy, with outstanding provenance, mentioned in numerous major publications on Flemish illuminations since the famous Burlington Fine Arts Club exhibition catalogue of 1908. It has always been attributed to the workshop of Willem Vrelant yet several miniatures are identifiable as the work of the Master of Saint Hadrian, one of the artists in Vrelant’s prolific workshop. This artist was identified by Jean M. Caswell for his extensive contribution to the "Morgan-Mâcon Golden Legend" (NY, Morgan Library & Museum, M. 672-5; Mâcon, BM, Ms. 3), and referred to by Anne van Buren as Vrelant’s chief associate, as well as for his collaboration in the second volume of the "Chroniques de Hainaut" (Brussels, KBR, 9243) which is the documented manuscript for which "Guillaume Wyelant" received payment for its decoration.
Contents: Calendar; Hours of the Cross; Hours of the Holy Ghost; Prayers to the Virgin, Hours of the Virgin, use of Rome; Office of the Virgin for Advent; Penitential Psalms and Litany; Office of the Dead; Psalter of St. Jerome; Invocations of Saints (female saints before male saints); Prayers of the Passion.
Decoration: Calendar in red and brown and burnished gold. Outlining of the arched compartments of the miniatures and of the text on the facing leaves executed in burnished gold. Fully illuminated and alternating burnished gold and blue initials with penwork decoration in the text.
Illumination: fifteen large miniatures in arched compartments (5 x 3,5 cm) within full decorated borders (8 x 6 cm): Crucifixion (with a landscape of hills, trees and a city in the background), Pentecost, Education of Jesus (with an angel playing a violin), Annunciation, Visitation (in a landscape of hills and trees and in front of a house), Nativity (in a stable, with an ox and donkey, Joseph kneeling), Annunciation to the Shepherds (in the countryside with sheep), Adoration of the Magi (in front of a brick shelter), Presentation in the Temple, Massacre of the Innocents (in a gothic courtyard), Flight into Egypt (on a path in the countryside with a pagan idol breaking at the passing of the Christ Child and a city in the background), Coronation of the Virgin (in a room with Christ on a Throne, accompanied by the Holy Spirit and an angel), David in prayer (in a landscape of hills, trees and a city in the background), Office of the Dead (with three clergymen and three mourners, including two hooded), St. Jerome in prayer in front of Jesus on the Cross (his cardinal's robes on the ground and accompanied by a lion). Pages facing these large miniatures also have full borders, decorated with a five-line blue initial heightened with gold. Eleven smaller miniatures (2,5 x 2,5 cm) mostly within initials and with same borders: Pieta, Mary Magdalene, Catherine of Alexandria, Barbara, Clare, Catherine of Siena, Francis of Assisi, Bernardino of Siena, Anthony of Padua, Sebastian and the instruments of the Passion.
The title and about half of the text of the Prayers to the Virgin are obliterated, as well as a part of the "Obsecro te"; evidences of later censorship.
The invocations of the Saints at the end of the manuscript suggest that the person commissioning it could have been close to the Franciscans. Placing female saints before male saints could also indicate that the first owner was a woman. Neither the Calendar nor the Litany give any indication on how to place this manuscript. The miniatures and borders are in the Bruges style. The use of gothica rotunda, imitating Italian script, was "quite the fashion for books of hours in Ghent and Bruges" (Gumbert).
The illustration and decoration are from the immediate circle of the famous Dutch miniaturist Willem Vrelant (d. 1481), active in Bruges. Vrelant worked for the wealthiest bibliophiles of the Low Countries, enjoying the active patronage of Philip the Good and Charles the Bold. Particularly the illuminations of the Massacre of the Innocents and of the Presentation in the Temple are identifiable as the work of the Master of Saint Hadrian, especially when compared to fol. 69v in volume IV at The Morgan. This artist was active in the documented workshop of Vrelant for several illuminations in the large size five volumes of the "Légende Dorée" now divided over the Morgan Library in New York and the BM in Mâcon, as well as for contributions to several miniatures in the second volume of the Brussels’ "Chroniques de Hainaut".
Our manuscript was shown in London at the exhibition of the Burlington Fine Arts Club in 1908 and in Antwerp at the "Exposition internationale, coloniale, maritime et d'art flamand" in 1930.
Ref. This manuscript is specifically included in the following bibliography: Sydney Cockerell, Exhibition of Illuminated Manuscripts. London, Burlington Fine Arts Club, 1908, n° 230. - Winkler, F., Die flämische Buchmalerei des XV. Und XVI. Jahrhunderts, Leipzig, 1925, p. 71, 181 ("Vrelant"). - Leroquais, V., Le bréviaire de Philippe le Bon, Paris-Brussels, Rousseau-Rousseau, 1929, p. 161, n° 14, pl. 17 (six folios illustrated: "atelier de Guillaume Vrelant"). - Exposition internationale coloniale, maritime et d'art flamand. Antwerp, 1930, IV, n° 22. - Dogaer, G., Flemish Miniature Painting in the 15th and 16th centuries, 1987, p. 105, 187 ("Willem Vrelant").
For further reading: Caswell, J.M., "Two Manuscripts from the Chroniques II Workshop. Chroniques de Hainaut, Volume II and Morgan-Mâcon Golden Legend", in Revue Belge d’Archéologie et d’Histoire de l’Art, LXII (1993), pp. 17-45. - Bousmanne, B., "Item a Guillaume Wyelant aussi enlumineur": Willem Vrelant. Brussels, KBR; Turnhout, Brepols, 1997. - van Buren, A.H., "Willem Vrelant: Questions and Issues", in Revue Belge d’Archéologie et d’Histoire de l’Art, LXVIII (1999), pp. 3-30. - Gumbert, J.P., "Can a Fleming Write Italian?", in A. M. W. As-Vijvers et alii (eds), Manuscript Studies in the Low Countries. Groningen, Egbert Forsten, 2008, pp. 207-216. - Bousmanne B. & Delcourt T. (eds), Miniatures flamandes, 1404-1482, Exh. Cat., Brussels-Paris, 2010-11, pp. 238-255.
Prov. The rounded Italianate script often denotes a manuscript for export to the Italian market. The manuscript is said to have belonged to the family of Andrea Doria (1466-1560), of Genoa, dispersed after the Napoleonic invasion of northern Italy (pencilled note in English - no further evidence available). Bought in 1827 by Johann Georg Pfister (1799-1883), of Augsburg, numismatist, who died in London (his signature inside the upper cover). Sir John Murray (1851-1928), of the celebrated British publishing dynasty, his by 1908 (and probably much earlier); by descent to his son, Sir John Murray (1884-1967), his sale, Sotheby's, 10 June 1963, lot 142, to Warden; sale at Christie's, 11 July 1974, lot 17, to the present owner.
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