Capital, power, religion and art in 15th-c. Europe
1008. [Book of Hours - Flanders]
Sm. 4to (180 x 120 mm):  lvs, vellum, (part. modern foliation in pencil, sl. soiled in some parts, light marg. spotting, 1 marg. tear without any loss f. 6, sm. paint losses to some miniatures, devils part. erased f. 30 and drapery added to nudes f. 154 v.).
17th-c. red morocco Italian gold-tooled binding with coat of arms and the name of Don Pedro de Aragon on both covers, spine with 4 raised bands, gilt edges, in green cloth box (large mod. restoration at spine, sl. rubbed).
Content/Text: (1) Calendar (with 12 vignettes); (2) Hours of the Cross (6 miniatures); (3) Hours of the Holy Spirit (7 min.); (4) Mass of the Virgin (1 min.); (5) Office of the Virgin; (6-9) Gospels extracts of St. John, St. Luke, St. Mathew and St. Mark (each with 1 min.); (10) Office of the Dead (1 min.); (11) prayer "Ad Matutinum invitatorium Deum Verum"; (12) Seven Penitential Psalms (1 min.); (13) Litany of the Saints; (14) Antiphones (2 min.).
Text in "littera textualis" on 17 lines a page (writing area 96 x 60 mm). One- and two-line initials and line endings in red and blue with burnished gold. At the end, 1 leaf with a religious Latin text in a microscopic handwriting (1 page), and 10 lvs with Italian and Latin prayers by a late 15th or a 16th-c. hand.
Illumination: 12 vignettes with 2 compartiments each, at the top of each calendar leaf (35 x 60 mm) depicting the activity of the month and the corresponding sign of the Zodiac. - 22 top arched miniatures (17 half-page (75 x 60 mm) above 6 lines of text with large initials, and 5 full-page (110 x 61 mm)) in full borders (150 x 110 mm) figuring: (2) Christ before Pilate, the Flagellation, Christ Carrying of the Cross, Crucifixion, Deposition, Entombment (min. 1-6); (3) The comissionner kneeling before the Holy Trinity, "Consilium" (2 men consulting a third), "Sciencia" (3 men, one pointing at a star), "Fortitudo" (David and Goliath), Understanding (a man playing an organ; text part. erased), Fear of the Lord (a man and the Dead in a boat with devils in the sky, text part. erased), "[...] Misericordie" (a man kneeling for execution, text part. erased) (min. 7-13); (4) Visitation (min. 14); (6-9) St. John, St. Luke, St. Matthew, St. Mark (min. 15-18); (10) Office of the Dead (min. 19); (12) Last Judgement (min. 20); (14) St. Basilissa and St. Catherine of Siena (min. 21-22). - 12 leaves with large historiated initials (6 lines) in large full borders (150 x 108 mm) figuring the Holy Trinity, Sts Michael, John the Baptist, Peter and Paul, Mary Magdalen, Christopher, Gregory, Anthony Abott, Sebastian, Francis, Bernardino and Ursula. - 18 leaves with full luxuriant borders (152 x 102 mm) and text on 17 lines, large painted initials (6 lines) with burnished gold. Leaves 13 and 123 with coat of arms of the Piemontese noble family Romagnano (azur, a bend d'argent between two bendlets or) integrated into the initials; the same on f. 38 but here, at the bottom of the page, with the family's motto "EN UN" enclosed by pine branches with pine cones. - In all, 64 leaves with painted borders and/or miniatures.
Decoration: borders abundantly decorated with acanthus, flowers and fruit in vivid colours, inhabited by human figures and fantastic creatures in curious poses or activities, some nude, grotesques, birds and beasts, interspersed with burnished gold dots.
Localisation and use: Southern Low Countries, possibly Brussels or Ghent (Sts Amalberga on 13 July and Macarius on 10 May). Prayers are in the male form and, from a devotional point of view, there is a special interest in Franciscan saints namely Francis from Assisi, his sister Clara and Bernardino of Siena (canonised 1450).
Origin: The illuminations can be attributed to the "Master of Johannes Gielemans" as named by Otto Pächt, Dagmar Thoss and James Marrow for having illustrated the "Horologium Brabantiarum" (between 1476 and 1487), a collection of hagiographies of Brabantine saints by the Augustine canon Joannes Gielemans (c. 1427-1487) from the priory of Rubea Vallis (Rooklooster) in Oudergem near Brussels (Vienna, ÖNB, Cod. ms. sn 12706, 12707). Léon Délaissé labelled this hand as of "The Master of Vasco de Lucena" for his illumination of "Le Triomphe des Dames" (1460) a text translated in French by Vasco and presented to Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy (Brussels, KBR, ms. 10778), while Maurits Smeyers designated him as the "Master of Fernando de Lucerna" after the same text now attributed to Fernando, Vasco's brother.
More work of our Master can be found in: "Historologium Brabantinorum" by Johannes Gielemans (Vienna, ÖNB, ms. sn 12710), in "Recueil de traités moraux et didactiques" for Jean de Montauban (d. 1466), lord of Rohan, governor of Bretagne (New York, Public Library, ms. Spencer 17) or in the "Arbre des batailles" for Louis of Luxembourg-Saint-Pol (+ 1475), constable of France (Chantilly, Musée Condé, ms. 346/1561). Other miniatures appear in some manuscripts for ecclesiastical foundations in or around Brussels.
Of particular interest for the localisation and dating of our book of hours are two manuscripts ordered by Claudio (de) Villa, a Piemontese banker from the city of Chieri, south of Turin, who owned counters in Bruges, Oudenaarde and Ypres in the third quarter of the 15th c. The first is a Franciscan Missal also by the Master of Johannes Gielemans (Turin, Biblioteca reale, ms. Varia 186). Second is a book of hours for the Franciscan cloister of Chieri, whereabouts unknown but sold at Sotheby's (1939, July 12th, lot 12), attributed to (the workshop) of Jan Tavernier, one of the favourite miniaturists of Philip the Good. Curiously enough, St. Basilissa, whose image is present in our manuscript, was particularly venerated in Chieri, and the painter Gillis Tavernier, Franciscan monk with Flemish roots, worked and died there in 1488.
All in all, an enigmatic specimen of a Flemish illuminated manuscript, and the piece of a puzzle which involves Piemontese nobility, Lombard bankers, the court of Philip the Good in the Burgundian Netherlands, the families Romagnano and de Villa, Italian patrons, the Franciscan Order and Flemish artists. An intriguing network of relationships between capital, power, religion and art in 15th-c. Europe which requires more research.
Ref. Archives de la Société française des Collectionneurs d'Ex-libris, 9e année, 1902, p. 27, pl. 27. - Gabrieli, B.O.- Gillis Tavernier, een schilder van Oudenaarde in Chieri. Translation E. Verroken, 2007 (https://www.academia.edu/78496680/Gillis_Tavernier_een_schilder_van_Oudenaarde_in_Chieri). - La Miniature flamande, exhibition cat. Brussels, 1959, n. 228. - Mallén, D.- Usurpación de armas (? de don Pedro de Aragón?) en una encuadernación heráldica del XVII, in Blog de Bibliofilia, January 16th, 2011. - Marrow, J.- Moral and didactic Treatises, in The Splendor of the Word. Medieval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts at the New York Public Library, exhibition cat., 2005, pp. 407-412. - Marrow, J.- De Meester van Johannes Gielemans, in Vlaamse Miniaturen 1404-1482, exhibition cat. (dir. B. Bousmanne & T. Delcourt), Brussels/Paris, 2011/2012, pp. 202-203. - Smeyers, M. - Flemish Miniatures, 1999, pp. 326-327. - Vanwijnsberghe, D., Charles le Téméraire et le "Livre d'Or" de la Confrérie Saint-Sébastien de Linkebeek, in Quand flamboyait le Toison d'Or, Beaune, 2021, pp. 243-245.
Prov. Marquis Romagnano, count of Pollenzo (painted coat of arms), Gian Francesco (d. 1581) or Gian Lodovico (d. 1586). - Pedro Antonio de Aragón y Fernández de Córdoba (1610-1690), Viceroy of Naples (supralibros and name on the binding).- Christie's Auction, July 8th, 2005, n. 30.- Belgian private collection.
We thank Dr D. Vanwijnsberghe for his kind help in preparing this entry.
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