BOOK OF HOURS (Use of Geert Grote); illuminated medieval manuscript with one miniature and three historiated initials by the Masters of the Zwolle Bible (active in Zwolle, c. 1460-1480)
by Catholic Church
THIS CHARMING ILLUMINATED DUTCH-LANGUAGE BOOK OF HOURS REFLECTS THE VALUES OF THE DEVOTIO MODERNA MOVEMENT IN ITS SOFT PALETTE AND ELEGANT RESTRAINT. Illuminated manuscript on parchment in Dutch, Eastern Netherlands, probably Zwolle, c. 1470-1480. 135 x 100 mm. 141 folios on parchment, wanting 5-7 single leaves (perhaps once with miniatures or initials), written in a fine angular late Gothic bookhand on 17 lines, rubrics in red, 1-line initials in gold or blue with contrasting penwork, 2-line initials in burnished gold on pink or blue grounds with foliate extensions terminating in gold and colored flowers, two 4-line initials in the same style with decorated borders on three sides, ten 6-line initials in blue on brightly burnished gold grounds, containing colored sprigs of foliate and with borders on three sides of acanthus leaves, flowers, fruit, THREE HISTORIATED INITIALS with similar borders, enclosing 12 angels playing musical instruments, holding instruments of the Passion, or grasping the border foliage, and a peacock, the bas-de-page in the last containing the dead rising from their graves, FULL-PAGE MINIATURE with a border of rinceaux terminating in bulbous foliage, buds, and bezants, with a virgin soothing a unicorn in the bas-de-page. BINDING: Eighteenth-century gilt-tooled morocco over pasteboards, silk doublures, gilt edges. ILLUSTRATION: This charming Book of Hours is illuminated by the Masters of the Zwolle Bible, perhaps under the supervision of the Brethren of the Common Life at Zwolle, in the Gregoriushuis. The Masters of the Zwolle Bible were a group of artists identified from their production of a sumptuous six-volume Bible (now Utrecht University Library, MS 31) made for the Community of the Brethren of the Common Life (the lay members of the Devotio Moderna) in Zwolle, between 1462 and 1476. Their style is characterized by a pale, reduced palette and light, uncomplicated compositions, in keeping with the precepts of the Devotio Moderna, a fifteenth-century religious reform movement that cultivated pious practices and opposed showiness or opulent display. The handling of the figures here exemplifies this, and they are a fine example of the Zwolle Masters's style. Though the virgin with the unicorn (f. 1v) is an unusual addition, this manuscript follows the iconography of others produced at Zwolle under the Brethren of the Common Life at this time. The full-page miniature depicts the Annunciation to the Virgin (f. 1v) while the three historiated initials show the Virgin and Child on a crescent moon (f. 2), Christ as Man of Sorrows (f. 44), and Judgment Day (f. 69). PROVENANCE: Quite possibly produced in Zwolle under the supervision of the Brethren of the Common Life, most probably for the "Tho[mas] Joffe" whose late fifteenth-century ex libris is still visible on the final leaf. Joffe was doubtless a resident of Utrecht, and the calendar includes local saints of that region, in addition to those characteristic of the Zwolle workshop. Sold in Christie's London sale, 25 November 1992, lot 1992, to a private European collector. CONDITION: Slight fading of first opening, trimmed slightly at the top, otherwise excellent condition. Some scuffs at headbands and small splits along spine. Full description and photographs available (BOH 94).
(Inventory #: BOH94)
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