See also : Ancient England Renaissance Judaica Christianity Flemish art Literature Literature in French Religious texts Political writing
Chronology : 1-1000 1150-1300 1430-1459 1460-1479 1480-1499 16th century 1500-1519
Qur'an Leaf 2nd half of 1st century AH
2008 SOLD for £ 2.5M including premium by Christie's
< 835 The School of the Gospels
2015 SOLD for £ 2M including premium
Unlike their predecessors the Merovingians, the Carolingians did not neglect the role of the Church. The creation of a religious teaching in 789 clearly identified its purpose to combat ignorance and had as a direct consequence an increase in the activity of the copyists.
Metz is not far from Aachen, and Charlemagne created in that city one of his imperial necropoles. The place that included many abbeys became an important intellectual center. Drogo, an illegitimate son of Charlemagne, became bishop of Metz in 823. His masterpiece, unfinished at his death in 855, is an illuminated book of prayers.
For several centuries, the Gospel books included the four Gospels with prefaces and comments, preceded by a Canon table for the concordance between the texts and followed by a capitulary with the list of celebrations. The four elements of the Canon table are separated within an arched portico lavishly painted.
On July 15 in London, Christie's sells a remarkably complete manuscript on vellum in very good condition, known as the Gospels of Queen Theutberga, lot 20 estimated £ 1M.
This book was made in the early ninth century, most likely in Metz. Despite the luxury scripts, it does not include decorative initials, increasing its presumption of a very ancient execution. The list of celebrations do not mention the feast of All Saints which became an obligation of the official liturgy in 835.
1189 The Five Books of Moses
2015 SOLD for $ 3.6M including premium
The first sale of the Valmadonna Trust Library by Sotheby's in New York on December 22 includes three European manuscripts among the oldest that survived the persecutions. They have the usual original textual additions : the major commentaries or Masorah magna in the header and footer and the minor commentaries or Masorah parva in the intervals between the columns.
One of them is dated exactly of 15 Tammuz 4949, corresponding to July 2, 1189 of our calendar. This manuscript of 482 pages 28 x 31 cm is made of the Pentateuch, the Haftarot (books of the Prophets) and the Five Songs. Scholars locate it in England through paleographic considerations and by the presence of Anglo-Norman words in some marginal notes.
1189 was a terrible year for the English Jews who were victims of riots at the coronation of Richard I. Their manuscripts were considered as a wealth and were looted. Very few Jewish belongings escaped this event followed a century later by the expulsion of the Jews from England. This highly rare medieval English Pentateuch in beautiful condition is estimated $ 2M, lot 7.
In the manuscript at lot 6, estimated $ 1.5M, the Pentateuch and Haftarot with both types of Masorah are accompanied by the Targum which is the Aramaic translation of the Pentateuch. Undated, it may be contemporary to the English manuscript discussed above. Its writing is Ashkenazic and a Franco-German origin is assumed.
Lot 5, estimated $ 1M, is considered as the oldest manuscript from the Valmadonna Trust Library although it does not anticipate the other two by more than a few decades. This manuscript in Sephardic writing was done in Spain. It is limited to the Pentateuch and its two Masorah.
Lot 7 (English, 1189) SOLD for $ 3.6M including premium
Lots 5 and 6 unsold
1215 Magna Carta of King John
2007 SOLD 21.3 M$ including premium by Sotheby's
1315-1323 The Illuminated Graal
2010 SOLD 2.4 M£ inluding premium
But the Saint Graal (Holy Grail) is still better than any other secular theme. This search for truth brings into action the kings, the knights, with the morals of that time that included the courtly love. The strength of this first real novel in Western literature is precisely the fact that without contradicting the Bible it does not imitate it in any way.
The manuscript in French bound in three volumes which is for sale by Sotheby's in London on December 7 has been copied and illuminated in Flanders or Artois between 1315 and 1323. This specimen is known as the Rochefoucauld Grail assuming that it was done at the request of the head of this very ancient aristocratic family.
Well studied by medievalists, this beautiful book is illustrated with more than 100 miniatures and nearly 100 large initials. One of its miniatures adorns the press release shared by Artdaily. It is in large format, 405 x 295 mm. Somebody calculated that it took 200 cows to supply its 450 vellum leaves. It is estimated £ 1.5 M.
POST SALE COMMENT
Ancient manuscripts are sometimes difficult to sell. We therefore welcome the success of this one at £ 2.4 million including premium, in the region of the higher estimate.
1440 The Workshop of the Bedford Master
2012 SOLD 2 M€ including premium
An illuminated manuscript made in Paris, certainly in the workshop of the Bedford Master, was sold for € 2M including premium by Millon on April 27, 2012, lot 147. This result was recorded at that time by La Gazette Drouot but is not accessible now in the online catalogue of the auction house whatever the reason.
It is now estimated £ 850K for sale by Christie's in London on July 13, lot 113. The date of the Millon sale in Christie's catalogue departs of one year from the real date. The story below is mostly based on my 2012 discussion with some additional information concerning the artists.
Note also that this beautiful manuscript was not complete as eight of the twelve calendar pages and three folios that probably supported large miniatures are missing.
The atmosphere is weird in Paris after the death of Charles VI in 1422. The new king of France is the infant Henry VI of England who of course does not reside in that city, and the regency is entrusted to his uncle the Duke of Bedford.
Throughout Europe the princes are competing in luxury and commission to the most skilled artists the illuminated books, the great art of that time gloriously promoted by the duc de Berry who had died in 1416.
From 1409 to the 1430s, the leading (and probably unique at some time) Parisian illumination workshop is led the Master of the Bedford Hours so called by reference to his main patron..
The manuscript for sale is a book of hours in Latin and French for the use of Paris. It consists of 265 vellum folios 22 x 16 cm, mostly in-octavo. Its illustrations include but are not limited to 22 nearly full page arch topped paintings in three side frames. The text is carefully line ended and ruled.
The sumptuous models by the Bedford Master had been transmitted to his joint successors whose hand is recognizable in the manuscript for sale : they are the Dunois Master and the Master of the Munich Golden Legend. Such attributions enable to date that work from around 1440.
1464 The Romance of the Bigamous Knight
2012 SOLD 3.85 M£ including premium
At the end of the Hundred Years' War, the Duke of Burgundy Philip the Good maintains a prestigious court and is a patron of arts and literature. The prose novel Gillion de Trazegnies, composed at that time by an anonymous writer, is an amazing example of the revival of the courtly romance, with all the features of this literary genre.
The Trazegnies family actually existed in Hainaut, and the legend of the bigamist knight was told a long time before the writing of the novel. The reader is made weeping with this story of a pilgrim to the Holy Land who becomes a prisoner, believes that his wife is dead, becomes unintentionally a bigamist and is released of this accidental sin by his chevaleresque attitude.
This novel was published last year by the medievalist Stéphanie Vincent, who had access to the five copies in illuminated manuscripts of the original edition, all made for the Duke and his entourage.
Louis de Gruuthuse, stadtholder of Holland and Zeeland, was one of the five privileged who received such a copy, illuminated in 1464 with 8 large and 44 small images. Then it belonged to Francis I king of France and to the Dukes of Devonshire. It is estimated £ 3M, for sale by Sotheby's in London on December 5.
The illuminated page where you see the narrator discovering the heart of Gillion between the graves of his two wives is shown in the press release shared by Artdaily.
POST SALE COMMENT
This outstanding manuscript illuminated in Antwerp or Bruges was sold £ 3.85M including premium.
I invite you to play the video shared by Sotheby's introducing both this romance and the Mystère de la Vengeance already discussed in this group :
1471-1476 The Chapel of the Condottieri
2018 SOLD for € 2.2M including premium
Galeazzo Maria Sforza was a true prince of the Renaissance, altogether humanistic and perverse. He early deserved his reputation for lust and sadism. At the same time the best musicians were coming in his ducal chapel to sing and compose masses and motets.
A large size illuminated manuscript made for the young Duke was sold for £ 1.22M including premium by Christie's on July 6, 2011 over a lower estimate of £ 600K. It is estimated € 600K for sale by OVA Aristophil operated by Aguttes in Paris Hôtel Drouot on June 16, lot 22.
This very large book 35 x 24 cm could be read on a lectern in a chapel. The luxurious layout is of a great originality. The illuminations are from the hand of an artist identified as the Maestro d'Ippolita after a work done in 1465 for the wedding of Ippolita Sforza.
These Sforza's Great Hours for the use of Rome are mainly dedicated to the Virgin, in Latin with a few minor texts in Italian. The ducal emblems and monograms displayed in various parts of the book assess that its magnificence is intended for Duke Galeazzo Maria himself.
One page refers to Sixtus IV, allowing to date the book between the election of this pope in 1471 and the murder of Galeazzo Maria in 1476.
La session estivale des ventes #Aristophil débute le 16 juin à 14h30 chez @Aguttes_ @Drouot. Entre les lettres de Marie de Médicis et François Ier, on retrouvera le chef-d’oeuvre d’enluminures « Les Grandes Heures de Galeazzo Maria Sforza » https://t.co/AjQQY7hdck pic.twitter.com/TYZkERxWg0— AuctionLab (@byAuctionLab) June 5, 2018
1490 The Jewish Hours of Florence
2012 SOLD 1.85 M€ including premium
The Mahzor has all the characteristics of an illuminated book of hours, except that it deals with the Jewish liturgy and is written in Hebrew. Style comparisons show that the specimen for sale was made by a workshop specializing in Christian manuscripts.
This little book of 442 leaves 168 x 125mm is estimated € 400K. Here is the link to the catalog.
On one side, the printed incunabula already dominate the whole culture of the Renaissance. The workshops of the illuminators are beginning to be outdated. On the other hand, the movable type prints use Latin and Greek letters, and printed books in Hebrew are still a novelty.
The catalog states that "it is unsurprising that Jewish patrons called upon the services of artists who worked for the Medici". I would also say that it is not surprising that the Tuscan illuminators have solicited Jewish customers.
In Florence, Lorenzo de 'Medici was ending his "magnificent" reign. The great patron of arts and letters was also interested in Jews and protected them. Everything was to change from 1494 with the theocracy of Savonarola.
POST SALE COMMENT
The result rewards the quality and the extreme rarity of this manuscript: € 1.85 million including premium.
1495 The System of the Hours
2018 SOLD for € 4.3M including premium
A handwritten book of hours for the use of Rome including in its calendar several saints from Tours was sold for € 2.35M including premium by Gros et Delettrez on April 8, 2011 over a lower estimate of € 400K in the prestigious auction of the Weiller collection. It is estimated € 700K in the sale operated by Aguttes for OVA Aristophil at Paris Hôtel Drouot on June 16, lot 21.
This small book 23 x 14 cm is composed of 44 sheets. Sixteen circular miniatures 65 mm in diameter in shades of gold embellished with colors are front side and back side in the center of eight of these sheets. In the same position the other sheets are hollowed, providing the reader with a permanent consultation of the image related to the liturgical chapter which he is consulting.
This system is almost unique. Another example illustrated in losanges is also known, perhaps by the same workshop. A close look at the tweet below shows that the miniatures therein are viewed through one or two hollowed pages. The text is written in two columns to avoid the interruption of sentences by images and holes.
This book was made in the last phase of the illuminators when the workshops continued to provide luxury productions competing with printed books. It is associated with other opus attributed to Poyer.
In a poem written in 1504 by the chronicler Lemaire de Belges, Jean Poyer is quoted among the deceased artists. The catalog of the Weiller collection dated this book of hours between 1500 and 1510. The date around 1495 suggested in the OVA Aristophil catalog is plausible. The book is referred as the Petau Hours so named after a former owner.
1505 The Best Artists from Ghent and Bruges
2014 SOLD 13.6 M$ including premium
One of these masterpieces is known as the Rothschild Prayerbook. It was sold for £ 8.6 million including premium at Christie's on July 8, 1999. It is estimated $ 12M, for sale by Christie 's in New York on January 29.
It is a book of hours for the use of Rome (meaning that is based on Roman liturgy), made around 1505 in Ghent or Bruges. In a small format 23 x 16 cm, this book with 252 leaves in luxurious vellum includes 67 large illustrations.
From an iconographic point of view, it is a fabulous collection of religious and liturgical scenes, showing in very fresh colors the life and customs of its time. Decorative borders offer an extended variety of topics.
The styles of these images clearly show that several workshops have co-operated, and comparison with other manuscripts and paintings can identify that it was made by the most renowned artists of their time. Their co-operation in such collective artworks was an extraordinary and unique business of which no direct witnessing has surfaced.
The main illustrators of the Rothschild Prayerbook were Gerard Horenbout who worked at Ghent and Alexander Bening, a member of the guilds of Bruges and Ghent. Simon Bening, son of Alexander, to whom a few images are attributed, will be the last great Flemish illuminator. The style of Gerard David, the leading painter in Bruges at that time, is recognized on several images.
POST 2014 SALE COMMENT
This masterpiece reaches once again a great price : $ 13.6M including premium.
I invite you to play the video shared by Christie's :
1511 The Last Illuminator
2011 SOLD 1.6 M£ including premium
The prayer book for sale at Christie's in London on July 6 was made by Bening in 1511 for a wealthy merchant of Nuremberg. Very small, 90 x 62 mm, the manuscript on vellum of nearly 350 pages is lavishly illustrated with religious scenes of which eleven are in full page. The text is in Latin and Dutch.
Heir to the centuries-old tradition of illuminators, Bening is also influenced by the trends of his time, especially for the treatment of the landscape and the introduction of insects in trompe-l'oeil into floral borders.
The estimate, £ 1.5 million, is ambitious.
POST SALE COMMENT
This lot has nearly met its estimate. It was sold £ 1.6 million including premium.