Entries Tagged as 'Auctions'

Sotheby’s: London, 23 May 2017


AUCTION: Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts and Continental and Russian Books, Sotheby’s: London, 23 May 2017.

The sale of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts and Continental and Russian Books is distinguished by a rare Prayerbook probably made in Saint-Trond in the 1570s. Other important manuscripts include a Flemish 13th-century Psalter with later Middle English supplements, a Book of Hours probably made in Langres around 1480 by the Master of the Missal of Travaillot, and a portion of a Chronique anonyme universelle roll in French with other parts now in Cambridge (Mass), Houghton Library, and in a private collection in Tübingen.

The printed books in the sale include a fine Luther New Testament from 1535, hand-coloured and printed on vellum, a collection of first editions of classic Russian novels by Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Turgenev and Gogol, and a rare first edition of Kepler’s Prodromus dissertationum cosmographicum (1596), his first substantial work which was uncompromisingly Copernican and which launched his scientific career.

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Script and Illumination at Christie’s


ONLINE AUCTION – Script and Illumination: Leaves from Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts, Christie’s, 29 November 2016.

Christie’s Books and Manuscripts Department is delighted to present its second Online Only auction of Medieval and Renaissance leaves and cuttings. With estimates starting from £500, the sale is full of sparkling examples of manuscript production across Europe, with a particular focus on the art of illumination in Italy. Spanning the course of five centuries, the sale features splendid survivals from secular and religious texts alike – including leaves from renowned codices such as the Hungerford Hours and the Bessarion antiphonals – illuminated by artists of the calibre of Attavante degli Attavanti, Bonifacio Bembo, Neri da Rimini and Don Simone Camaldolese.

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Sotheby’s: London, 8 December 2015


AUCTION: Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts, Sotheby’s, London, 8 December 2015.

Sotheby’s is pleased to present the Property of a Private Collector, to be sold in our December Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts sale. The selection is distinguished by the Breviary of St Mathurin, a manuscript from the Gothic period of exceptional quality and considerable importance, beautifully illuminated by a follower of Jean Pucelle, the most influential illuminator in the early fourteenth century. It stands in sharp contrast to the Letters of Saint Jerome, an example for Ferrarese humanism, signed and dated by a well-known scribe, with an unusually detailed early ownership inscription, and a noble modern provenance that includes Charles Fairfax Murray, C.W. Dyson Perrins, Peter and Irene Ludwig of Aachen, and most recently the J. Paul Getty Museum.

A selection of richly illuminated Books of Hours offers a comprehensive record of late medieval painting in France and Flanders. Other single leaves with miniatures demonstrate the popularity of Books of Hours while selected examples such as the impressive leaf from a Gradual made in Germany around 1300 or the various leaves, cuttings and miniatures from Italian Renaissance manuscripts highlight the achievements of other schools. A finely painted miniature with Saint Paul in the style of Giulio Clovio is especially impressive.

The Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts sale also includes other manuscripts, single leaves and miniatures, notably a humanist manuscript of Julius Firmicus Maternus’ Matheseos Libri VIII, an astrological treatise from the classical period, made in Rome and dated 1468, but also other Books of Hours and manuscripts, a rich selection of leaves and miniatures of high quality, as well as papyrus from the fine 19th-century collection of Count Louis de Vaucelles and an Armenian prayer scroll.

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In vendita uno dei corali di S. Sisto a Piacenza


FAIRS: Frieze Masters 2015, Regent’s Park, London, 14 – 18 October 2015.

Les Enluminures ha messo in vendita uno dei corali di S. Sisto a Piacenza:

In Latin, illuminated manuscript on parchment
With 31 miniatures by the Master of the San Sisto Antiphonals
Italy, [Lombardy (doubtless Piacenza), 1460-80
Priceover: $150,000

Of immense scale and in exceptional condition, this is one of a 14-volume set of Choir Books made for the Abbey of San Sisto of the Congregation of Santa Justina. Sets of opulently illuminated choir books were one of the most prestigious products of Renaissance manuscript illumination.

Sumptuously illuminated with 9 exceptionally large historiated initials, sometimes half a page in size, and 22 smaller historiated initials, its style represents the culmination of the late Gothic International Style in Lombardy.

This impressive volume preserves an immense contemporary binding of thick wooden boards covered with leather and metal stamped frames and bosses. Illumination of these volumes extended over a half century; the present manuscript – one of the earliest and most precious – is by a collaborator of the famous Belbello da Pavia.

Other volumes in the set are in museums (Amadeo Lia Museum in La Spezia, University of California at Berkeley, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Walters Art Museum, etc.). Intact Choir Books are rare, especially in private collections, and they have significantly increased in value in recent years; this volume was on long-term deposit at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

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Christie’s: London, 15 July 2015


AUCTION: Valuable Books and Manuscripts Including Cartography, Christie’s (King Street, London), Wednesday, 15 July 2015.

The following entries are of particular interest:

Lot 15
OFFICE FOR SAINT BERNARDINO OF SIENA, a fragment of 6 leaves, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM [Italy, probably Abruzzo, between August 1471 and May 1472].

187 x 132mm. 6 leaves from a gathering of 8 (lacking ii and vii), written space 110 x 85mm. HISTORIATED INITIAL and TWO ILLUMINATED FOLIATE INITIALS with bar borders (slight marginal spotting and staining, tiny pigment losses). In a black hardback folder.

The historiated initial on the first leaf shows a Franciscan friar offering a book – presumably the book of which this gathering was once part – to a pope. The text which follows on the recto and verso of the first leaf is a fulsome dedication of the newly composed Office of San Bernardino which follows, incompletely, on the following 5 leaves. The dedication makes plain that the Franciscan author has been encouraged by his fellows and superiors to undertake this task to mark the impending Translation of Saint Bernardino’s relics, an honour to the saint authorised by the Pope. This is clearly the PRESENTATION COPY MADE FOR SIXTUS IV, builder of the Sistine Chapel and himself a Franciscan, and can be precisely dated between his election in August 1471, and the date of Bernardino’s Translation, in May 1472.

Saint Bernardino of Siena (1380-1444), a fervently austere member of the Observant branch of the Franciscans, was regarded as one of the greatest preachers of his age. His sermons, particularly castigating luxury, usury and sodomy, played an important role in the reforming religious revival in 15th-century Italy. Intending to extend his influence over the whole of Italy he set out to reach Naples but died in L’Aquila in 1444. The church of San Bernardino was built there to honour him and house his relics and it was apparently to commemorate the translation of his body there in 1472 that the present manuscript was made.

The charming and decorative initial is a rare example of precisely datable illumination. For illumination in Abruzzo see the exhibition catalogue, Illuminare l’Abruzzo: codici miniati tra Medioevo e Rinascimento, Chieti, 10 May – 31 May.

Lots 16 – 17
SIX ILLUMINATED AND HISTORIATED INITIALS FROM AN ILLUMINATED CHOIRBOOK ON VELLUM: (i) John the Baptist, historiated initial ‘V’; (ii) Mary Magdalene , historiated initial ‘N’; (iii) St Michael, historiated initial ‘N’; (iv) the Eucharist, historiated initial ‘P’; (v) the Holy Cross, historiated initial ‘C’; (vi) illuminated initial ‘G’.


On average 75 x 78mm (minor losses and rubbing to the gold and pigment, some darkening of the miniatures); laid down on card mounts, individually framed (the mounts lightly soiled).

The delicate handling of the faces with fine, softly curling hair and the convincing landscapes are those of the artist known as the Master B.F. (fl.1490-1545), the illuminator of a series of choirbooks for the Olivetan monastery of Santi Angelo e Niccolò in Villanova Sillaro at Lodi, near Milan. The stylistic resemblance of the present initials to those cut from the Santi Angelo e Niccolò choirbooks indicates that they were painted at the same time; the original set of probably twenty volumes was broken up in 1799 after the suppression of the monasteries, the initials extracted and dispersed. The Master B.F. – named for his monogram on other initials – remains without universally-accepted identification (see C. Quattrini in Dizionario Biografico degli miniatori italiani, ed. M. Bollati, 2004, pp.438-42), but prestigious commissions for Olivetan houses, including San Vittore al Corpo in Milan, exemplify the importance of this Milanese illuminator, whose debt to Leonardo can be seen in the intricately modelled figuration and craggy landscapes.

Lot 83
DANTE ALIGHIERI (1265-1321). La Commedia. Commentary by Cristoforo Landino (1424-1504), commendations by Marsilio Ficino (1433-99). Florence: Nicolaus Laurentii, 30 August 1481.

Royal 2° (385 x 252mm). Collation: p8 2p6 (p1 blank, p2r Landino’s introduction, 2p3v Ficino’s commendations, 2p6 blank; a10 b8 c-e10 f8 g10 h-i8 l10 m-n8 o-r10 s6 (a1 blank, Inferno text and commentary, engraved illustrations to the first two cantos on a2r and b1v); aa-gg10 hh12 ll-mm10 oo6 (aa1 blank, aa2r Landino’s prologue to Purgatorio, aa3r Purgatorio); A8 B-H10 I6 L12 (A1r Landino’s prologue to Paradiso, verso blank, A2r Paradiso, L10v colophon, L11-12 blanks). 367 leaves (of 372, without the blanks; p8, 2/2-4, a4.7, i3.6, ?ll9-10, mm10, F9,10 and possibly others supplied). 60 (or less) lines of commentary surrounding text, and headline. Type: 4b:115R (text), 5:91R (commentary). 2- to 16-line initial spaces, most with printed guide-letter.

TWO ENGRAVINGS BY BACCIO BALDINI AFTER BOTTICELLI illustrating cantos 1 and 2 of Inferno, 18/19th-century drawings imitating the engravings for cantos 3-19 supplied in pen and ink, traces of graphite and grey washes, pages opening each of the three parts with 18/19th-century illuminated initials on coloured grounds, the first two illuminated pages also with floral borders, opening page with illuminated floral and foliate decoration and two portrait roundels of Dante and Beatrice, most of the supplied leaves rubricated. (Engraving to canto I trimmed at bottom and reinforced on verso, occasional minor stains, repaired marginal tear in mm10, outer margin of p8 extended.) Brown morocco gilt by Roger de Coverly and Sons, gilt edges (minor scratch). Provenance: some early, scattered marginalia – 19th-century bookseller’s description in Italian — S.A. Thompson Yates (1894 bookplate; tipped-in letter to him from William Humphrey, 1903, sending a note on the engravings).

FIRST ILLUSTRATED EDITION OF DANTE, THE SECOND FLORENTINE ILLUSTRATED BOOK AND FIRST EDITION OF LANDINO’S COMMENTARY. This monumental edition was designed as a patriotic celebration of Florentine cultural superiority, made explicit in the prefatory essays by Landino and Ficino. The original plan had been to illustrate all the cantos, but only 19 of the 100 engravings were finally executed. Most copies, including this one, have only the first two engravings, which were printed directly on the page; only about twenty copies are known to contain the other seventeen engravings, which were pulled on separate slips and pasted into the spaces provided. See Hind, Early Italian Engraving I, 99-116. The engravings were previously thought to be based directly on a manuscript (now in Berlin and the Vatican) illustrated by Botticelli for Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de Medici, but the manuscript is now accepted to date from the 1490s. Both manuscript and printed edition may stem from an earlier version of Botticelli drawings, now lost. HC *5946; GW 7966; BMC VI, 628 (IC.27094-6); IGI 360; BSB-Ink. D-9; Sander 2311; Arnim 115; Goff D-29.

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Sotheby’s: London, 7 July 2015


AUCTION: Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts, Sotheby’s (34-35 New Bond Street, London W1A 2AA UK), Tuesday 7 July 2015.

The following entries are of particular interest:

Lot 17
Christ Blessing in an historiated initial, one of seven painted initials on thirteen leaves of an Antiphonary, in Latin [Italy, Tuscany (perhaps Arezzo or San Sepolchro), c.1250-75].

Lot 18
Three illuminated initials on leaves from Franciscan Antiphonaries, in Latin [Italy (Bologna), c.1300-25].

Lot 19
Decorated initial on a leaf from a Choirbook, in Latin [southern Italy, c.1250s].

Lot 22
Two historiated initials from illuminated manuscripts [Italy and Germany, 15th century].

Lot 24
Leaf from a Ferial Psalter, in Latin [Italy (probably Florence), c.1470-90].

Lot 25
Four bifolia from a Missal, Use of Augustinian Hermits, in Latin [north-eastern Italy, c.1490s].

Lot 26
Ozias, Prince of Judah, and King Ahasuerus, two historiated initials on a leaf from the Breviary of Lionello d’Este, in Latin [Italy (Ferrara), between 1441 and 1448].

Lot 27
The Dance of Death, full-page miniature [northern Italy, Lombardy, c.1490].

Lot 28
The Triumph of David, large full-page miniature [Italy (Rome), c.1550-75]

Lot 57
Historiated, illuminated, and decorated initials on twenty-nine leaves from manuscripts in Latin [Flanders, France, Italy, and Spain, 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries].

Lot 67
The Organization and Duties of Vatican Chamberlains and Guards, in Latin [Italy (Rome), after 1539].

Lot 70
Gradual, in Latin [Italy (Siena), c.1280].

Lot 72
Book of Hours, Use of Rome, in Latin and Italian [Italy (Florence), c.1480].

Lot 73
Book of Hours, Use of Rome, in Latin [Italy (Florence), c.1470s].

Lot 74
Book of Hours, Use of Rome, in Latin [Italy (Naples), c.1490].

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San Francesco all’asta da Gonnelli a Firenze


AUCTION: Manoscritti, Libri, Autografi, Stampe & Disegni, Libreria Antiquaria Gonnelli – Casa d’Aste, via Ricasoli 6, 14/r, 16r, Firenze, venerdì 12 dicembre e sabato 13 dicembre 2014.

Lotto 583

Artista della cerchia di Liberale da Verona degli inizi del XVI secolo
Lettera miniata con San Francesco e Dio Padre.
Tempera e oro su carta pergamena.
Foglio: mm 190×155.

L’opera è ritagliata e incollata ad una carta protettiva per il tramite di una vernice. Opera di grandissimo pregio collocabile agli inizi del Quattrocento, riconducibile alla prima venuta di Liberale in Toscana, presso il Convento di Monte Oliveto nei pressi di Siena.

Prezzo di partenza € 2.000,00; venduto a € 8.500,00.

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Le Portement de croix


AUCTION: Le Portement de croixMercredi 11 décembre 2013 à 14h30.

Maîtres CHAUVIRE et COURANT SCP – 1 rue du Maine – 49100 Angers

n° 347
Belle enluminure, Touraine, entourage de Jean Bourdichon, vers 1500.
Le Portement de croix (Initiale A)
polychrome et or sur parchemin, 149 cm x 130 mm.

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The Rothschild Prayerbook


AUCTION: The Rothschild Prayerbook, The Renaissance Sale, New York, Wednesday 29 January 2014.

On view in London (at Christie’s, Books & Manuscripts, 8 King Street, St. James’s) for one week only: 28th November – 4th December.

One of the most prestigious and exquisite examples of Renaissance Flemish manuscript illumination to remain in private hands. An acknowledged masterpiece by the greatest artists of the Flemish Renaissance, including Gerard David, Gerard Horenbout, Simon Bening and his father Alexander Bening.

A wealth of illumination: 252 leaves, 67 full-page miniatures with surrounding borders and complementary borders on the facing pages; 5 small miniatures with accompanying full-page borders; 12 full-page calendar borders with roundels; 2 further text pages with full borders.

Prestigious provenance: perhaps made for a member of the Imperial court in the Netherlands, it joined the fabled collections of the Rothschild family in the 19th century.

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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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Christie’s: London, 12 June 2013

Christie's 12 giugno 2013

AUCTION: Valuable Printed Books and Manuscripts, Christie’s, London (8 King Street, St. James’s), Wednesday 12 June 2013.

The following entries are of particular interest:

THE THRONE OF MERCY, historiated initial ‘D’ on a leaf from an illuminated antiphonal on vellum [Bologna, c.1295-1300] 505 x 359mm (the leaf); 110 x 120mm (the initial). The initial in red, yellow and ivory-white on a ground of blue; within, the Throne of Mercy showing God the Father supporting the Cross with the body of Christ, the sun and moon above, all against a ground of burnished gold; seven lines of music and text on recto and verso (minor loss of burnished gold below the moon). Framed. Contemporary folio number ‘XXV’. The initial opens the Introit for the first Christmas Mass: ‘Dominus dixit ad me filius meus es tu’ (The Lord said to me, you are my son).
The present leaf is from a dismembered Antiphonal that, together with a series of Graduals, was commissioned for the Dominican convent of S. Agnese di Valdipietra in Bologna. The Graduals remain in Bologna (Mus. Civico mss 519, 520 & 521). Sixteen other fragments from the Antiphonal have been identified (Gaudenz Freuler, publication forthcoming). The style of the illuminator — theso-called Master of S. Agnese di Valdipietra — shows the strong influence of Byzantine art and the ‘primo stile’ characteristic of Bolognese workshops of the 13th century.
Freuler points to the evident compositional and figurative link with the Gerona Master, one of the most influential artists of his time. Other initials by the illuminator of the present leaf include BL Additional MS 18196, f.24; Bologna, Mus. Civico, ms. 518, f.199; London, Victoria and Albert Museum, ms. 953 (803-1894); Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, No. 62.1361 and Munich, Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, Inv. No. 40068 40068.

THE ASCENSION OF CHRIST, historiated initial ‘V’ on a leaf from an illuminated antiphonal on vellum [Venice, c.1325], 435 x 332mm (leaf); 110 x 112 (initial). The initial in pink and red on a ground of blue, acanthus terminals extending into the margin; the Virgin and the apostles within with Christ above in a mandorla borne by two angels; seven lines of music and text on recto and verso (some fading of text, tiny loss of pigment to the face of the Virgin). Framed.
The initial opens the Introit for the Mass of the Ascension: ‘Viri Galilei quid admiramini aspicientes in coelum?’ (Men of Galilee, why wonder you, looking up to heaven?). a striking and vibrant example of early fourteenth-century venetian illumination. The composition of the scene displays an eastern, Byzantine influence, and the heavily modelled faces, with brows and noses heightened by touches of white, indicate that the manuscript was produced in Venice during the first half of the 14th century. The patterned robes of the angels carrying Christ to Heaven and the minute detail of red and white dots outlining the halos of the Virgin, Christ and the angels are particularly distinctive. Identical details and a similar modelling of the figures are found in the original decoration of a Venetian Gradual produced for a Dominican house c.1325 (Fitzwilliam Museum, MS McClean 56: Morgan, Panayatova & Reynolds, Illuminated Manuscripts in Cambridge, 2011, Pt 2, vol.1, no 48). It is likely that the artist who was responsible for the first campaign of the Fitzwilliam Gradual was also responsible for the present manuscript. Localisation to Venice is supported by the close similarity in figure style and ornament to the very fragmentary Antiphonals of San Marco, one perhaps datable to 1318 (Venice, Archivio di Stato Proc. de supra, s. Chiesa, MSS Reg. 113 and Reg. 116).

THE DORMITION OF THE VIRGIN and THE ASSUMPTION OF THE VIRGIN, miniatures on both sides of a leaf from a Book of Hours, in Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Veneto, probably Padua, c.1340-1350] 131 x 94mm. On the recto, the Dormition of the Virgin against a ground of liquid gold, with the body of Mary surrounded by angels and Apostles, Christ holding her soul in the form of a young girl below ten lines of text closing Vespers, all within a full-page diapered border of black, gold and red; the verso with the Assumption of the Virgin against a ground of liquid gold, with Mary in a blue mandorla borne by two angels and the apostles looking on from below, three-line initial ‘C’ opening Compline, three lines of text, all within a similar full-page border, the lower segment with pink, green, red and blue flowers and two Saints (borders worn, with loss of pigment and darkening of colours, loss of burnished gold in several places, the recto with some browning and wear to the figures). Double-sided frame.
A charming and richly illuminated leaf from an exceptionally early italian book of hours. Books of Hours from the first half of the 14th century are extremely rare and it is only recently that any Italian examples have been identified, most notably the lavishly and inventively illuminated Officiolum of the poet Francesco da Barberino of c.1308 (Christie’s Rome, 5 December 2003, lot 404). Like other early Italian Hours the Officiolum was apparently painted in or around Padua by artists heavily reliant on Bolognese style. Such an origin seems likely for the present leaf with its vibrant palette and delicately modelled Giottesque figures. The profusion of illustration — two miniatures to open a single Hour — indicates that the parent manuscript must have been a remarkable luxury product. This leaf, like its sister folio (priv. coll. Switzerland), has great significance for Italian bibliographic and devotional history in addition to being a work of exceptional artistic quality.

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Christie’s: London, 18 June 2013


AUCTION: Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts, Christie’s, South Kensington, Tuesday 18 June 2013 at 10.00 am (lots 1-235), 85 Old Brompton Road, London SW7 3LD.

The following entries are of particular interest:

CHRIST BEFORE THE APOSTLES, historiated initial on a leaf from a Missal, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM [Northern Italy, late 14th century] 370 x 265 mm.
Folio no ‘135’ in pencil, 12 lines of text per page in a very fine formal rounded Italian bookhand, using c-cedilla for ‘z’ in ‘batizantes’ (line 10, recto), the text covering the end of the Friday and the beginning of the Saturday after Easter, including on the verso the rubric for Saturday, ‘Sabbato in albis; statio ad sanctum Johannem in Laterano. Introitus’, and the Introit itself, ‘Aduxit [sic] dominus populum suum’, illustrated with a LARGE HISTORIATED INITIAL DEPICTING CHRIST BEFORE A GROUP OF FIVE DISCIPLES, against a diaper ground, two foliate initials against burnished gold grounds (minor losses of gold in the outer border of the main initial). Glazed on both sides, in giltwood frame. A charming and unusual example of Italian illumination showing influence from north of the Alps.

ST DOMINIC, initial ‘I’ cut from an illuminated manuscript choirbook on vellum [Florence, c.1490] 400 x 150mm overall, irregularly cut at right edge (slight surface abrasions).
St Dominic, shown within a roundel on the initial, suggests it was once in a choirbook made for a Dominican church. The Evangelist’s eagle in the roundel above the initial may indicate that the chant opened with the beginning of the Gospel of John, ‘In principio’. This is a handsome and highly decorative initial characteristic of Florentine illumination of the latter part of the 15th century. The use of golden sprays and white flowers to decorate dark grounds is closely comparable to that found in manuscripts from the workshop of Giovanni di Giuliano Boccardi (1460-1529), known as Boccardino il Vecchio.

ST DOMINIC, historiated initial ‘M’ on a cutting from an ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT CHOIR BOOK ON VELLUM [Ferrara, c.1470s] 170 x 121mm.
The initial in blue and green with strawberry terminals against a ground of burnished gold, partial musical notation (minor losses of gold). In a giltwood frame carved with putti, glazed on both sides (some loss of gilding). The initial likely opens the first response for the first nocturn of Matins of the feast of St. Dominic, ‘Mundum vocans ad Agni nuptias’. The style of the illumination indicates that the intact manuscript was produced in north-eastern Italy, probably Ferrara. There are strong compositional parallels between the present cutting, with its bright, vibrant palette, strawberry terminals and the figure set against a deep pink background with delicate gold infill, and an initial ‘M’ cut from a Ferrarese Antiphonal in the Free Library of Philadelphia (Lewis EM 26:16).

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