MBS Miniature Book of Hours (Use of Rome), c. 1480
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Miniature Book of Hours (Use of Rome)
In Latin, illuminated manuscript on parchment
Belgium, Bruges, c. 1480
15 large miniatures, 3 historiated initials, and 24 roundels in the Calendar by the Workshop of the Master of the Dresden Prayerbook
203 ff., preceded by a single vellum leaf, complete (collation: i4, ii8, iii8+2, iv8+1, v8+1, vi8, vii4, viii10+1, ix4+1, x11+2 [original quire of 12 with one text leaf tipped in (f. 78), 2 singletons with miniatures, last folio of quire cancelled], xi8+4 [quire of 8 with 2 text leaves and 2 singletons with miniatures], xii12+1, xiii11+1 [of 12, with last folio of quire cancelled], xiv6+2 [quire of 6 with one text leaf tipped in and one singleton with miniature], xv6, xvi9 [of 10, last folio of quire cancelled], xvii8+1, xviii-xx8, xxi5 [of 6, with first folio of quire cancelled], xxii8+1, xxiii8, xxiv6 [of 8, last 2 folios of quire blank or cancelled and final three leaves blank], all full-page miniatures tipped in on added singletons, numbered in pencil in a modern hand, first and final three leaves blank), 15 long lines (16 lines for the calendar pages), ruled faintly in brown ink, justification 85 x 59 mm., written in black ink a fine rounded Gothic book hand, rubrics in red, three historiated initials, 1- and 2-line burnished gold initials on a blue or magenta ground with white tracery, 24 roundels in the calendar, each with signs of the zodiac and the corresponding labors of the month, 3 historiated initials, 7-lines high in blue or magenta with white tracery on a burnished cusped gold ground, 45 elaborately painted borders in several colors and gold, containing acanthus leaves, flowers, and other vegetation as well as fauna, butterflies, snails, a rabbit, several birds, including peacocks, 15 large miniatures within arched compartments outlined in burnished gold. Bound in eighteenth-century red morocco, ornately gilt, edges gilt, joint and spine ends a bit rubbed, rear joint cracked, slight loss of leather at top right portion of spine, front pastedown covered with nineteenth-century green silk (bearing the printed face of Christ), housed in a recessed velvet compartment inside a handsome full morocco folding box with raised bands and gilt title and decoration, some slight rubbing, minor soiling, and other trivial defects, else in excellent condition internally. Dimensions 90 x 63 mm.(binding); 85 x 58 mm.(leaves).
The charming miniatures in this Book of Hours were illuminated by an artist who trained under (or was heavily influenced by) the Master of the Dresden Prayer Book. Active from about 1460 to 1520, and working not only in Bruges, but also at times in Valenciennes and Tournai, the Dresden Master and his shop produced nearly fifty manuscripts and illuminated incunables. The lively and rich narrative style, dramatic poses and gestures, and distinctive palette of the Master of the Dresden Prayerbook are evident in our manuscript.
1. Most likely made for an owner in Bruges not only because of the Bruges calendar, but because of the contribution of the workshop of the Master of the Dresden Prayerbook, active there in the last quarter of the fifteenth century, beginning c. 1470 and traced until about 1505. An original (or perhaps later) ownership inscription was probably excised on f. 199.
2. USA, Private Collection.
ff. 1-12v, Calendar, with entries in red and black, for Bruges, with saints Donatian (Oct. 14), to whom the Cathedral of Bruges was dedicated, Basilius (June 13), in red, Eligius (June 24) in red, and Egidius (Sept. 1), along with many Franciscan saints, including Francis, Clare, Anthony of Padua, Bernardino, and Louis of France, suggesting someone with ties to the Franciscan Order;
ff. 14-18v, Short Hours of the Cross;
ff. 20-24, Short Hours of the Holy Spirit;
ff. 26-32, Mass of the Virgin;
ff. 34-107v, Hours of the Virgin, use of Rome, with Matins (f. 34), Lauds (f. 56), Prime (f. 70), Terce (f. 76), Sext (f. 82), None (f. 87), Vespers (f. 93), Compline (f. 102);
ff. 109-118vr, Advent Office of the Virgin;
ff. 120-141, Seven Penitential Psalms, and Litany;
ff. 143-179, Office of the Dead, use of Rome;
ff. 181-191v, Psalter of St. Jerome;
ff. 191v-193v, Verses of St. Gregory;
ff. 194-194vr, Suffrage to St. Sebastian;
ff. 195-199v, Obsecro te for masculine use.
Calendar: illustrated with a full cycle of labors of the month and signs of the zodiac:
f. 1, January, Man Feasting, Aquarius pouring water;
f. 2, February, Peasant Trimming Branches, Pisces as Fish;
f. 3, March, Planting, Aries as a Ram;
f. 4, April, Hawking (?), Taurus as a Bull;
f. 5, May, Man Riding on Horseback, Gemini as Twins;
f. 6, June, Man Preparing the Soil for Planting, Cancer as Crab;
f. 7, July, Man Cutting down Wheat, Leo as the Lion;
f. 8, August, Wrapping Wheat in Sheaves, Virgo as Young Woman;
f. 9, September, Wine-making, Libra as a Balance;
f. 10, October, Planting Soil, Scorpio as Scorpion;
f. 11, November, Knocking Acorns out of Trees, Sagittarius as Archer;
f. 12, December, Killing the Pig, the Capricorn as Goat.
Full full-page miniatures, all on inserted folios, blank on the rectos:
f. 13v, Crucifixion;
f. 19v, Pentecost;
f. 25v, Virgin and Child with Music-playing Angels;
f. 33v, Annunciation;
f. 55v, Visitation;
f. 69v, Nativity;
f. 75v, Annunciation to the Shepherds;
f. 81v, Adoration of the Magi;
f. 86v, Presentation in the Temple;
f. 92v, Massacre of the Innocents;
f.101v, Flight into Egypt;
f. 108v, Coronation of the Virgin;
f. 119v, King David in Prayer;
f. 142v, Raising of Lazarus;
f. 180v, St. Jerome in the Wilderness.
f. 191v, Christ as Man of Sorrows;
f. 194, St. Sebastian;
f. 195, Pietà.
The charming miniatures in this Book of Hours were illuminated by an artist who trained under (or was at least heavily influenced by) the Master of the Dresden Prayer Book. This illuminator, who was also an engraver, was named after a Book of Hours in Dresden (Sächsische Landesbibliothek, MS A.311, two of whose detached miniatures are in the Louvre, Cabinet des dessins, inv. nos. 20694 and 20694bis). As Brinkmann observes, "The Master of the Dresden Prayerbook's thick-set, somewhat rotund figures with clumsy hands and feet and massive heads, are distinctive. His narrative style is lively and rich in detail. He gave his figures dramatic postures and gestures . His miniatures lack the refined finish of the contemporary Ghent-Bruges school of illumination; individual brushstrokes and stippling remain visible."
Brinkmann's stylistic analysis can be applied to the present manuscript. In the Pentecost (f. 19v), for example, the somewhat short apostles gesture dramatically, their movements offering a narrative gloss on their excitement. The palette of the Virgin and Child (f. 25v)cherry red, gold orange, royal blueechoes that of the Dresden Master, as does the large expanse of near black in the background of the Nativity (f. 69v), untouched broad areas of color being a favorite device of the Dresden Master. And certain miniatures in the present codex, the David in Penance (f. 119v) and the St. Jerome (f. 180v), echo elements in the eponymous manuscript itself (ff. 98v and 96v, respectively, in the Dresden book). Active from about 1460 to 1520, and working not only in Bruges, but also at times in Valenciennes and Tournai, the Dresden Master and his shop produced nearly fifty manuscripts and illuminated incunables.
Although there are no indications that help identify the original owner (perhaps someone with ties to the Franciscans? See Provenance), the tiny size of the present manuscript and its rich cycle of illustration help us imagine today how owners used their books. Here is a manuscript where even the smallest scenes (the charming calendar roundels measure only 14 mm. in diameter and the height of the miniatures only 44 mm.) are replete with narrative detail, which must have guided viewersoften more interested in the pictures than the textto models of lay sanctity and affective piety.
Brinkman, Bodo. Die Flämische Buchmalerei am Ende des Burgunderreichs. der Meister der Dresdener Gebetbuchs und die Miniaturisten seiner Zeit, Turnhout, Brepols, 1997.
Kren, Thomas and McKendrick, Scot. Illuminating the Renaissance: the Triumph of Flemish Manuscript Painting in Europe, Los Angeles, CA, J. Paul Getty Museum, 2003, pp. 207-216.
Bodo Brinkmann, "Master of the Dresden Prayerbook," Grove Art Online