See also : Renaissance Ancient England Ancient Germany Judaica Christianity Flemish art Old Flanders and Belgium Literature Literature in French Religious texts Political writing Islam Persia Egypt
Chronology : 1-1000 1150-1300 1400-1429 1430-1459 1460-1479 1480-1499 16th century 1500-1519
650 the Qur'an of Uthman
2008 SOLD for £ 2.5M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
The risk of spreading dialect variants that will provoke sterile theological debates is too great. Caliph Uthman (Osman) commissioned the same expert to establish a canonical version of the Qur'an in a single Arabic dialect, henceforth prohibiting any modification of the text. The annalists do not mention this work which was carried out around 30 AH (around 650 CE).
On April 8, 2008, Christie's sold a Qur'an leaf 36 x 28 cm, lot 20, for £ 2.5M including premium, over a lower estimate of £ 100K. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
This double-sided manuscript folio is a palimpsest. The original text in Hijazi script was erased before the 9th century CE to reuse the vellum. The oldest text had left a corrosion in the vellum and it has reappeared over time.
It was of course sacrilege to erase a sacred text. One possible reason for this action was that the original manuscript was very early and did not fully meet Uthman's canon.
A leaf palimpsest from the same original codex was sold for £ 163K including premium by Christie's on May 1, 2001.
< 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.
1188 The Gospels of Henry the Lion
1983 SOLD for £ 8.1M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
Henry was a benefactor of Brunswick Cathedral, which he had built from 1173 and where he is buried. His gospel book is a very luxurious manuscript prepared for the consecration of the altar of the Virgin Mary in 1188 in that cathedral.
This book is a codex of 266 sheets of parchment 34 x 25 cm, including 50 full-page illustrations as well as historiated initials. It shows in a logical sequence the career of the duke protected by Christ and the saints, including for example his wedding and his coronation. Phylactery explanations complement the images, making it possible to identify the highly important imperial and ducal characters of his family.
The work was prepared at the Benedictine Abbey in Helmarshausen and the scribe identified his name. The script is a modified Caroline minuscule that anticipates the Gothic. The illustrations in bright colors are composed on the principle of the rejection of blank (horror vacui) while keeping a great readability. The image shared by Wikimedia gives the example of a page.
This masterpiece of the Romanesque illumination has remained intact. It was sold on December 6, 1983 by Sotheby's for £ 8.1M including premium, an all-categories record at that time for an artwork at auction. Considered in Germany as a national treasure, it was bought at that sale by a consortium including the government, the provinces of Lower Saxony and Bavaria and public and private donors.
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
1297 The Magna Carta
2007 SOLD for $ 21.3 M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
In 1215 the English barons revolted against King John. Financial and military demands had not prevented the scathing failures. In a situation of civil war, the king is forced to accept the Magna Carta by which the barons take control of the taxes.
The Magna Carta undergoes several modifications, because the political circumstances change. De facto rejected by King John, the Council of Barons, which was the forerunner of a parliamentary regime, was canceled in 1216 when the child Henry III acceded to the throne. In 1225 Henry III simplified the Magna Carta to facilitate its legal application.
The idea of a Parliament is gaining ground. Edward I takes the habit of summoning his advisers to make decisions concerning taxes and their collection. The operating rules are defined from 1283. It only remained to give force of law to the Magna Carta, which the king assisted by the Parliament solemnly does on October 12, 1297. It is stipulated in 1300 that a copy will be available in each county to be read four times a year.
17 manuscript copies from the 13th century have survived. 15 of them are in British institutions and one in the Australian Parliament.
The 17th document is a copy from 1297. It was bought in 1984 by the US billionaire Ross Perot, who entrusted it for display at the National Archives in Washington DC. It was sold for $ 21.3M including premium by Sotheby's on December 18, 2007. Its new owner, David M. Rubenstein, returned it to the Archives for a new long-term loan. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
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.
> 1417 Persian Manuscripts on Chinese Paper
2020 SOLD for £ 7M including premium
The Timurid empire broke out after his death. His son Shahrukh reigned over Persia and transferred the capital from Samarkand to Herat. He re-established relations with China through the silk road and became immensely wealthy. He did not seek conquests, took the title of sultan and protected Islam.
This political lull occured during the reign of Yongle of the Ming. A first Chinese embassy reaches Herat in 815 AH (1412 CE). China produces porcelain decorated in Muslim taste to serve as a diplomatic gift. The second embassy in 820 AH brought many gifts including porcelain but also silks, brocades, velvets and paper. This embassy is probably the terminus post quem of the Persian books on Chinese paper.
The Chinese luxury paper is thick, and designed to be extremely soft and silky to the touch. The Chinese workshops prepare the folio on a monochrome background in various hues of blue, pink, lavender, yellow and green. They then add an illustration in gold, with speckled patterns and sometimes figurative drawings, without human representation in conformance with the iconographic principles of Islam. The Persian workshops add their text on this preparation.
A dozen Persian manuscripts on Chinese paper are known, including four Qur'ans. One of these Qur'ans, recently discovered, consists of 534 folios 23 x 16 cm, 29 of which have been replaced. The text in Naskh script is written on each page in a 14 x 9.4 cm frame. The binding is Safavid. This book is estimated £ 600K for sale by Christie's in London on April 2 (postponed to June 25), lot 29.
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
1489 A Mamluk Qur'an
2019 SOLD for £ 3.7M including premium
Throughout his long reign Qaitbay successfully resisted the ambitions of his powerful Ottoman neighbors. Despite his conservative reputation, he knew how to take diplomatic initiatives. The giraffe he sent to Florence was the only one of its kind to be seen in Europe between antiquity and 1826 CE.
He was a great builder. Like his predecessors, he endowed his religious institutions with inalienable donations identified as waqf in Islamic law. The most luxurious Korans of his reign are calligraphed in the very large format 107 x 80 cm named Baghdadi.
On May 2 in London, Christie's sells a complete Qur'an made of 311 folios on half-Baghdadi cream paper 68 x 45 cm, lot 11 estimated £ 500K. This Qur'an is not inscribed as a waqf and we do not know for which foundation it was created but it is luxuriously dedicated to Sultan Qaitbay. Its writing is large, making it comfortable to read aloud on a lectern.
This manuscript is signed with the personal and courtesy names of the scribe. The nickname, al-Maliki al-Ashrafi, attests to a double allegiance to an unidentified noble person, perhaps simply to indicate that he works in the royal studio.
It is dated 21 Jumada I 894 AH, corresponding to April 30, 1489 CE. Some details of the realization show that it was done in a urgency, with mistakes removed by a simple scraping of the thick paper and even with omissions in the illustration. This hurry could be related to health problems of the aging Sultan.
Ramadan marks the month in which the Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. This spectacular royal Mamluk Qur’an is over 500 years old. Created for the Sultan Qaytbay of Egypt, its gold chapter (sura) heading inscriptions are painted on a lapis lazuli ground. pic.twitter.com/jD26zoDvoe— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) April 23, 2020
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 :