In 2013, a heretofore undescribed Parisian book of hours surfaced: it is closely connected with the Valois court of France and the Limbourg brothers from Nijmegen who worked first for the Philip the Bold of Burgundy and then illuminated the Belles Heures in New York and the Très Riches Heures in Chantilly for Jean de Berry and may have been the best Western painters working in the first two decades of the 15th century. The unfinished manuscript contains thirty pages with images left in the state of drawings. In part, they are so splendidly executed as if they were intended to remain uncoloured. The best and most fitting explanation – meticulously elaborated in the text of our monograph “The Genius of Drawing” – for this unfinished state as well as the incredible quality of the pictures is that the book was a commission on behalf of the Duke Jean de Berry destined for a present to his nephew Louis d’Orléans and his wife Valentina Visconti: Louis was killed in November 1407, Valentina died a year after in December 1408.
As masterpieces of the International Gothic around 1400 they shed light on the genius of drawing in a time of the greatest change in art between the Middle Ages and the first attempts toward the Renaissance. They are early witnesses of the fascination Northern artists had with the new discovery of nature in Italian art in the generation just before 1400, and they belong to the very best works which paved the way to the revolutionary development of the Netherlandish primitives from the 1420s onwards who were to astound the Western world with a new liveliness of figures in panoramas of landscape and architecture.
The manuscript’s sensational features are the quality of the drawings, the invention of images, and the power of representation. As a masterpiece by one of the three Limbourg brothers this heretofore completely unknown book of hours enriches in an unexpected way our knowledge of the art of the Limbourg brothers in those years when, in several campaigns between 1404 and 1408, they illuminated the Belles Heures. The Limbourg of Saint Jerome responsible for this project was not forced to contend with borders prepared against his intentions. The small format inspired his astonishing virtuosity. The interpretation proposed here, that the manuscript was planned by Jean de Berry to be a present for his nephew Louis d’Orléans and after his assassination in 1407 was still destined for Louis’ widow Valentina Visconti, unterlines the historical importance of the manuscript.
Above all we may surmise concerning the artist, the patron, and those for whom this manuscript may have been created, the mere existence of this grand book of hours is a triumph of the art of drawing. Its miraculous survival and reappearance has an enormous impact on art history as told today, as it rewrites the story of the Limbourgs, the most famous painters of medieval miniatures.
Our catalogue 77 can be easily ordered online.
Our latest catalogue introduces two extraordinary manuscripts: the psalter of Isabelle de Lens, illuminated by Pierre de Raimbaucourt and the Master of the Manchester Mort Artu around c. 1310/15 in Northern France, probably in Arras, with masterfully decorated initials and over 140 text pages filled with animals and coat-of-arms, and the book of hours of Pierre Poictevin, which was illuminated by the painters of the duke of Berry around 1390 in Paris or Bourges. Jacque mart de Hesdin, Pseudo-Jacquemart and their workshop worked on this unique manuscript during the time when Berry's Petites Heures were finished and define certain elements of the early French book of hours.
Between the earliest form of the prayer book, the psalter, and and outstanding example of the medieval best seller, the book of hours, the detailed description of both manuscripts and the unveiling of their origins is embedded in a look at the development from psalter to the book of hours in the 14th century.
You can order our catalogue 76 here.
Our latest catalogue 75 in six volumes IV-IX describes 217 copies from the largest collection of French printed books of hours made between 1487 and 1586. It is the sequel of hour catalogue 50 in three volumes (appeared in 2003) that already has described the first 158 copies of the collection.
On c. 3.100 pages with around 1.750 color plates each copy is described. Volume IX reproduces all 50 large picture cycles used between 1487 and 1586, presented according to their chronological order and in original size, and 180 important bindings of the 15th and 16th century.
Indices, an extensive reference system and a complete bibliography as well as a chronological list of all known copies make this catalogue an important reference work for the study of printed book of hours.
Octovien de Saint-Gelais was an extraordinary character of the Renaissance, with a short, albeit impressive career. Born in Cognac, he was poet and translator at the court of the French king Charles VIII in Amboise. But following a drastic change of heart, he became a cleric at young age and was named bishop of Angoulême by the king shortly after.
The previously unknown and richly illuminated Breviary of Octovien de Saint-Gelais ist fully described in this generously illustrated monograph; it was probably made in Paris on the occasion of his appointment as bishop of Angoulême in 1494 and is now considered to be the earliest work of made in the workshop of Jean Pichore, the leading Parisian book illuminator in the early 16th century. With numerous large miniatures and countless magnificent borders it is a chief work of the vibrant school - not only an early masterpiece of Jean Pichore but also an outstanding historical testimony of the life of the youthful bishop of Angoulême who already died in 1502.