See also : Illuminated Christian manuscript Renaissance Ancient England Ancient Germany Judaica Flemish art Literature Literature in French Religious texts Political writing Islam Persia Egypt
Chronology : 14th century 1400-1429 1460-1479 1500-1519 1530-1539
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.
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.
around 1300 Western Ashkenazic Mahzor
2021 SOLD for $ 8.3M by Sotheby's
This thick book of 451 equalized folios 31 x 24 cm was prepared in parchment in current day Bavaria by a scribe artist who identified himself as 'Abraham' in several places. It is highly rare that such a manuscript was illustrated by a Jew at a time when the best pigments were not provided to them by the Christian illuminators.
No date is inscribed. Its terminus post quem is determined as 1264 CE after a paleographic comparison with Ashkenazic codices. The terminus ante quem is slightly after 1300 CE by the use of a lead point, a precursor to the graphite pencil.
It is illustrated with multiple small figures in bright colors featuring praying Jews. A few of them have animal heads for complying with an Ashkenazic prohibition of portrait images.
It was later cleanly annotated in margins with additional prayers by its owners, providing a unique view of the rituals subsequently in Franconia, Alsace, Constance, Northern Italy and France. As an example it includes from Constance a prayer against the anti-Jewish violence during the Black Death.
The Luzzatto Mahzor is in an exceptionally fine condition. It was sold for $ 8.3M from a lower estimate of $ 4M by Sotheby's on October 19, 2021, lot 1. The Alliance Israélite Universelle is selling it to fund its educational mission. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
> 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.
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 :
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 :
1525-1535 Folio 42
2011 SOLD for £ 7.4M by Sotheby's
The Persian poet Firdausi wrote the Shahnameh 1,000 years ago. This Book of Kings collects in 30,000 couplets the epic and heroic stories of his country since the creation of the world until the advent of Islam.
He was misunderstood in his lifetime, like all geniuses, but the Persian kings appreciated later that this text could be used as an apologia for royal power. Shah Isma'il, founder of the Safavid dynasty, commissioned ca 1522 CE the leading artists of his court to illustrate the Shahnameh. That illuminated manuscript was created from 1525 to 1540 in the early reign of his son and successor Shah Tahmasp. That fully completed project includes 258 miniatures skillfully composed with combinations of bright colors..
This magnificent manuscript has been dismantled in the 1970s. One can, or even have to, regret it but the corollary is that each folio coming on the market is considered as a work of art in its own right. The format of the folios is 47 x 32 cm. Panels of text are inserted in columns in the pictures.
On April 6, 2011, Sotheby's sold for £ 7.4M from a lower estimate of £ 2M the folio 42 of the original manuscript, lot 78. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
The miniature is a 30 x 29 cm gouache heightened with gold, made in Tabriz between 1525 and 1535 CE. It is attributable to Aqa Mirak who was one of the leading masters of the project. The reverse has a text in four columns and two headings.
It pictures the king Faridun who disguises himself as a fierce dragon to test the courage and loyalty of his three sons. He could rejoice in the result and particularly appreciate the haughty answer made by the youngest: Go your way, dragon, we are the sons of the powerful Faridun.
1530 Folio 451
2022 SOLD for £ 4.8M by Christie's
It pictures Rustam kicking away the boulder pushed by Bahman. This story is not rare in Persian iconography. Closely following the text, the challenging hero is performing a Cossack dance while handling a cup of wine and roasting his onager.
This folio was sold for £ 4.8M from a lower estimate of £ 2.5M by Christie's on March 31, 2022, lot 41.
Christie's is delighted to announce that a rare court painting from the Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp (c.1530) and The Adolphe von Rothschild silk and metal-thread Polonaise carpet will lead the Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds including Oriental Rugs and Carpets sale on 31 March. pic.twitter.com/kv7GtgQmxc— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) February 22, 2022