BOOK OF HOURS (Use of Rome); illuminated manuscript on parchment with thirteen historiated initials by the workshop of the Master of the Vitae Imperatorum (active in Milan c. 1430-1453)
by Catholic Church
A BEAUTIFUL LITTLE BOOK OF HOURS WITH ELEGANT INITIALS STILL PRESERVED IN ITS CHARMING SIXTEENTH-CENTURY BINDING. Illuminated manuscript on parchment in Latin, Northern Italy, Lombardy, Milan, c. 1430-40, 115 x 88 mm., 163 folios, three leaves missing in the first quire, written in a regular southern gothic bookhand by two scribes, a few cadels, red rubrics, 1- and 2-line initials in red and blue, thirteen 4- to 5-line HISTORIATED INITIALS in mauve on burnished golden grounds with foliage decoration. BINDING: Italian sixteenth-century calf over pasteboard, gold-tooled with a central medallion and the initials CM, gilt edges, spine broken and worn, top and bottom of spine damaged with slight loss, clasps missing. ILLUSTRATION: Instead of the traditional scenes from the life of the Virgin, each section of the Hours of the Virgin here begins with a portrait of an important monastic saint or a doctor of the church. The final initial depicting the Madonna with Child was likely added by another workshop, probably at the request of the first owner. The illumination may be attributed to the Master of the Vitae Imperatorum, active c. 1430-1453 in Milan. He is named after a manuscript of Suetonius (Paris, BnF, MS Ital. 131), dated December 1431. Among his known masterpieces are the Bible of Mary of Savoy (in collaboration with Belbello da Pavia, Chambéry, Bibliothèque municipale) and the illustrations of Dante's Inferno for Filippo Visconti, now in Paris (BnF, MS ital. 2617). The historiated initials are: f. 10, St. Jerome; f. 23, St. Peter of Verona; f. 27, St. Scholastica (retouched); f. 31, St. Ambrose; f. 34, St. Francis; f. 37v, St. John the Baptist; f. 45v, St. Benedict of Nursia (?); f. 70, skull on mount Golgatha; f. 108, King David in Prayer; f. 120v, a bishop, probably St. Augustine; f. 132, the Holy Cross with cloth, nails and lance; f. 136, white dove of Holy Spirit; and f. 140, Madonna and Child. PROVENANCE: Similar in style, technique, and palette to a Breviary, Baltimore, Walters Art Museum, MS W.332, this manuscript was most likely made in Milan c.1430-1440. The unusual iconographic program and the added section with the Mass of the Virgin points to a commission from an Augustinian community in Lombardy, probably in the vicinity of Milan and Verona. The elaborate ownership entry with an attached paper seal on the verso of the last leaf points to Milan (surrounding inscription of paper seal illegible, the coat of arms is crowned by a bishop's mitre). Entry in Italian in a 17th-or 18th-century hand by a librarian or a book dealer. Ownership entry dated 1837 in Italian. For at least the past 150 years the manuscript has been in the collection of an English family; 20th-century pencil annotations in English, probably from the last owner. CONDITION: All decoration in excellent condition with bright and shining colors, lower and upper margins perhaps negligibly trimmed, but still wide and clean, the manuscript overall in crisp condition, a cutting from an older Italian liturgical manuscript tipped in before f. 1 obscures the beginning of the text. Full description and photographs available (BOH 101).
(Inventory #: BOH 101)
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