Christie’s: London, 20 November 2013


AUCTION: Valuable Manuscripts and Printed Books, Christie’s, London (8 King Street, St. James’s), Wednesday, 20 November 2013.

The following entries are of particular interest:

Lot 46
A COLLECTION OF OTTO EGE LEAVES, in Latin and Dutch, from nine ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPTS ON VELLUM [Italy, Netherlands, France, 13th–15th centuries]
10 leaves, most illuminated:
1) THE ENTOMBMENT, FULL-PAGE MINIATURE from a Book of Hours illuminated in the style of the Masters of Dirc van Delf, c.105 x 85mm, foliated ’25’ on the blank recto, [northern Netherlands, first decade 15th century];
2) THE LAST JUDGEMENT, FULL-PAGE MINIATURE WITH FULL BORDER from a Book of Hours illuminated by a follower of the Master of Guillebert de Mets, c.148x105mm, the originally blank recto with an added 16th-century inscription in French, [Flanders, mid-15th century];
3) THE CROSS IN A LANDSCAPE IN AN HISTORIATED INITIAL ‘D’, WITH A FULL RENAISSANCE BORDER, at the beginning of the Hours of the Cross from a Book of Hours, the verso with 12 lines in very finely written humanistic script by the Paduan scribe BARTOLOMEO SANVITO, c.120x80mm, [Italy, Rome, c.1480s]; [click here to learn more]
4) DEATH PERSONIFIED AS A CORPSE IN A TOMB IN AN HISTORIATED INITIAL ‘R’ WITH A FULL BORDER, from the Office of the Dead in a Book of Hours, the recto blank, c.110x78mm, [north-east Italy, perhaps Ferrara, c.1480];
5) an illuminated 5-line initial ‘D’ and border from a Book of Hours in Dutch, 16 lines, c.120x90mm, [northern Netherlands, c.1500];
6) leaf from a folio Bible, 2 columns of 60 lines, containing I Maccabees 4:12-6:1, red and blue initials, chapter numbers, and running titles, c.330x230mm [France, Paris?, mid-13th century];
7-8) two leaves from an illuminated Book of Hours, with 1- and 2-line initials, borders, and line-fillers, 15 lines per page written in a very calligraphic bâtarde, c.108x75mm [France, mid-15th century];
9) leaf from the Hours of the Holy Spirit in an illuminated Book of Hours, old foliation ’69’, c.160x118mm [France, first half 15th century];
10) leaf from an Ethiopian manuscript, written in Amharic in red and brown in two columns of 24 lines, c.190x165mm [Ethiopia, 19th? century]. Each mounted in a card folder.
An exceptionally fine group of leaves not from the fairly common portfolios put together by Ege, including a remarkable survival from a Book of Hours by the Paduan scribe Bartolomeo Sanvito (see A.C. de la Mare and L. Nuvoloni, Bartolomeo Sanvito: The Life and Work of a Renaissance Scribe, 2009, pp.276-278, no 79). Other leaves are at the Lilly Library, Boston University, Sweet Briar College, and Oberlin College, but none with historiated initials are known, nor any from the Hours of the Cross.

Lot 48
KING DAVID IN PRAYER, monumental initial ‘A’ on a leaf from a Gradual, on a collage of ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPTS ON VELLUM [Florence, last quarter of 15th century] (491 x 383 mm)
A COLLAGE OF THREE INITIALS: the initial ‘A’, 250 x 220mm, in pink, green, and blue, the stave inhabited by a priest and two musicians; within, David kneeling in prayer before the Virgin and Child in a crescent sun, all against a ground of burnished gold; an initial ‘D’, 100 x 150mm and an initial ‘S’, 95 x 120mm, both in red with green and blue foliage against grounds of burnished gold; four lines of text in gold alongside a miniature of a preaching Dominican, all within a full border inhabited with putti; the verso with five lines of text and music (there are seven parts to the collage: the large initial ‘A’, incipit to the first Sunday in Advent and most of the full-border are integral to the original leaf; the initials ‘D’ and ‘S’ and two strips of foliate border have been added beneath and alongside the large initial ‘A’ to conceal the original text of the Gradual; two smaller rectangular strips have been added to the right and top borders, likely concealing a coat of arms).
The initial ‘A’ would have opened the Introit for the first Sunday in Advent: ‘Ad te levavi animam meam’ from a choirbook made for a Dominican church. The highly decorative and colourful borders with putti and the bright palette are characteristic features of Florentine illumination of the latter part of the 15th century. Particularly striking and iconographically peculiar is the composition of the initial ‘A’, with David praying to the Virgin and Child (he is generally depicted praying to God or an angel). The hand is doubtless that of Giovanni di Giuliano Boccardi (1460-1529), known as BOCCARDINO IL VECCHIO, renowned for his sensitive rendering of figures and fascination for elaborate backdrops and ‘one of the last exponents of the golden age of Renaissance illumination’ (M. Bollati, Dizionario biografico dei Miniatori Italiani, 2004, p.113).

Lot 54
BOOK OF HOURS, use of Rome, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM [north-eastern Italy, final quarter 15th century]
140 x 95mm. 182 leaves: 112, 2-810, 98, 102, 11-1210, 138, 14-1510, 168, 176, 18-1910, 208, COMPLETE. 12 lines written in black ink between 2 verticals and 13 horizontals ruled in pale brown, text justification: 70 x 35mm, rubrics in red, gold and blue, two-line initials of gold or blue with involved foliate flourishing the height of the page in the other colour, a few including figures, faces or an animal, FIVE LARGE HISTORIATED INITIALS ACCOMPANIED BY FULL-PAGE INHABITED BORDERS OF COLOURED ACANTHUS ALL SET ON BURNISHED GOLD GROUNDS, a further SEVEN HISTORIATED INITIALS ACCOMPANIED BY FULL-PAGE FOLIATE BORDERS INCORPORATING BIRDS AND ANIMALS AND WITH ROUNDELS WITH HALF-LENGTH SAINTS IN THE LOWER MARGINS (inconsequential offsetting and spotting, cropping of top of flourish borders, a few small losses of pigment). 19th-century black morocco ruled and stamped in blind with silver filigree corner-pieces, clasp and catch (edges lightly scuffed, front hinge split). PROVENANCE:: (a) ‘Ioa. Ant. Victorius Firmanus I.V.D.’, his 18th-century armorial stamp with a palm tree and a star and the motto ‘HIS VINCITUR’, on front and back flyleaves. (b) Library of the Earl of Mountnorris, bookseller’s cutting pasted inside front doublure. CONTENT: Calendar ff.1-12v; Office of the Virgin ff.13-87v: lauds f.34, prime f.47v, terce f.52v, sext f. 57v, none f.62v, vespers f.66, compline f.75; Hours of the Cross ff.89-92; Office of the Dead ff.93-129v; Office of the Cross 131-153v; Seven Penitential Psalms and Litany ff.155-82. ILLUMINATION: A richly coloured and highly decorative manuscript: not only do the illustrated pages sparkle with the burnished gold grounds of their borders and large initials but even the text pages are liberally furnished with golden initials, rubrics and flourish borders. The lavish gold decoration combines with intense saturated pigments to opulent and vivid effect. The style seems a marriage of elements found in manuscripts produced in the Veneto and Lombardy, with the profusion of birds and animals in the borders recalling those in books produced for the court of Ferrara. The unusual flourishing in the margins seems a less refined version of the penwork borders found in a group of Venetian manuscripts S. Marcon, ‘Ornati di penna e di penello: appunti su scribi-illuminatori nella Venezia del maturo umanesimo’, La Bibliofilia, lxxxix (1987), pp.121-144. The subjects in the large historiated initials are as follows: Virgin and Child, border roundel with a shield for arms (charge erased) f.13; Man of Sorrows, border roundel with crosses at Calvary and the incipit of the prayer ‘Per signum crucis deinimicis’ f.89; Entombment of bearded man, border roundel with a skull and the incipit of the prayer ‘Pensa alla fine che die murire’ f.93; Crucifixion with John and the Virgin, an empty cross in the lower border f.131; David in Penitence, border roundel with David playing a psaltery and the incipit ‘In te domine speravi salvus’ f.155. The other historiated initials paired with roundels in the lower margins, both containing half-length saints are on ff. 34, 47v, 52v, 57v, 62v, 66, 75.

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