Attributed to MASTER OF BEATRIJS VAN ASSENDELFT'S "LEVEN VAN JEZUS"
Very large miniature on vellum (leaf ca. 22,8 x 15,7 cm, miniature ca. 21,5 x 14,5 cm).
Exceptional miniature originating from a major unpublished Dutch Book of Hours in Latin and Dutch, presently in a European private collection. The manuscript originally containing the present miniature of the Virgin and Child is quite important, among other reasons, because it is the largest Book of Hours known to have been made in the Northern Netherlands during the 15th century. It is noteworthy as well in having texts in both Latin and Dutch, and in including an unusually large number of prayers, including a good number that appear to be unknown in other Dutch Books of Hours. It is illustrated and decorated throughout by the Master of Beatrijs van Assendelft’s Leven van Jezus. Although there is no reliable evidence to identify the person for whom the manuscript was made (the patron can, however, be identified as a woman because of the use of feminine forms in some of the texts), it has been suggested, if only speculatively, that this might have been Beatrijs van Assendelft herself.
The pencil foliation in that manuscript has missing leaves of various fols., including number "138", which is the folio number found on the present leaf. The measurements also confirm the identification, as the manuscript is 22,9 cm high (the leaves of the manuscript are wider, measuring 16,9 cm - the present leaf is less wide because it was excised from the book). The original manuscript, to which this miniature belonged, retains only one full-page miniature, an Annunciation on f. 7v. The present miniature of the Standing Virgin and Child as the Apocalyptic Woman “clothed with the sun, and with a moon-sickle beneath her feet” (fol. 138v in the old pencil foliation), would have followed present fol. 113, but because there is a gap of 9 leaves after present-day fol. 113 and before present-day fol. 114, it will not be possible to identify the precise text that this miniature prefaced until and unless the missing text leaf that had the old pencil foliation 139r can be located. In all likelihood this miniature would have introduced a section or series of prayers to Mary.
The painter was named after the miniatures in the richly illustrated copy of the "Bonaventura-Ludolfiaanse Leven van Jezus" in Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, Ms. 25. This painter was the most skilled and distinctive of the so-called Masters of the Delft Half-Length Figures, who appear to have been the dominant figures in the production of luxurious illustrated manuscripts in Delft from ca. 1450-1480. A common feature of the works in these styles are their marginal depictions of angels, prophets and other figures in half length, usually shown emerging from stylized cloud banks or plants. They also share a common vocabulary of compositional and figural types, similar conventions of marginal decoration, and a distinctive palette, dominated by an underlying pattern of contrasting milky pink and blue pigments. Works by the Master of Beatrijs van Assendelft’s Leven van Jezus are distinguished from those of the other Masters of the Delft Half-Length Figures, among others, by a more monumental and angular figure style, finer and more detailed linear renderings of facial features, and more fully developed systems of modeling, whether for delineating the planar elements of facial forms or for defining the plasticity of garments (for example, through fine networks of gold highlighting). The most fully developed works in the style also make abundant use of elaborate and sometimes fantastic architectural superstructures or canopies at the top of full-page miniatures, such as found here.
The decoration in all four margins of the manuscript Hours consists of ink sprays, gold discs and triangular petals, painted and gold foliage, flowers and animals, and single figures of men (prophets?), women and angels, some of them emerging from flowers or gold cloud-banks and most shown in acclamation or prayer. The present leaf with a full-page miniature has similar decoration in all four margins, but with a half-length figure of a praying man in the outer margin and a figure of an angel playing the organ in the lower margin.
Ref. Books of Hours. Livres d’Heures. Catalogue 9 (Paris, Les Enluminures, 2000), pp. 130-133 nr. 26 (Book of Hours, Delft, ca. 1480-1490). - J.H. Marrow on Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, Ms. 25, in The Cambridge Illuminations. Ten Centuries of Book Production in the Medieval West, ed. Paul Binski & Stella Panayotova (London-Turnhout, Harvey Miller, 2005), pp. 210-211 (nr. 93).
Prov. Little is known of the post-medieval provenance of the original Book of Hours, presently in a European private collection.
We thank Professor James H. Marrow for help in preparing this entry.
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