LOVELY ILLUMINATED LEAF FROM A 15TH-CENTURY BOOK OF HOURS, DEPICTING THE MADONNA AND THE CHRIST CHILD WITHIN A RICH FLORAL BORDER(BOOK OF HOURS). Illuminated leaf from a manuscript Book of Hours. Paris: circa 1450. Single vellum leaf (4 by 6 inches), in blue, green, red, purple, pink, gray and gold inks; matted, entire piece measures 8-1/2 by 11 inches. $7300.Beautiful illuminated leaf from a Parisian Book of Hours from the latter half of the 15th century, featuring a splendid, regal miniature of the Madonna and Holy Child, surrounded by an ornately floriated border.Originally derived from the Psalter, the medieval Book of Hours contains “offices”—sets of psalms, lessons, antiphons and prayers—to be recited during each of the eight canonical hours of the day. Its main section, the Hours of the Virgin, was said in honor of the Virgin Mary; other offices include the Hours of the Cross and the Hours of the Holy Spirit. Such personalized prayerbooks were greatly coveted as luxury items during the Middle Ages, when it was fashionable for women of high social standing to own one; this accounts in part for the unique variations of text and illustration. This leaf comes from a Book of Hours from Paris in the second half of the 15th century. The text is the beginning of the Joys of the Virgin. This popular act of piety is a prayer organized around events in the Virgin Mary’s life: the Annunciation, the Nativity, the wedding at Cana, Pentecost and so on. The number of joys celebrated varies from five to 15, as here. The recto bears a single column of four lines of text written in a very pleasing Gothic book hand and a large, three-line initial letter “D” in blue and white enclosing a spray of three roses, the whole on a burnished gold ground.The miniature depicts the Blessed Virgin as the Queen of Heaven, in her customary blue cloak and in royal purple, the folds richly heightened in gold. A golden crown sits atop her red-gold hair, and a wispy halo surrounds her head. She returns the gaze of the infant Christ Child, who sits in her right hand. A red and purple tapestry, ornately decorated in gold, hangs behind them. The curving wall in the background has an inscription (reading, in part, “Maria Mater”) near the domed ceiling. Despite the paucity of background elements, the artist has created depth by showing the floor tiles in radical perspective, their uniform, gray color focusing attention on the Madonna and Child. A full, swirling border of acanthus leaves, roses, strawberries and lilies frames the miniature. The verso bears two lines of text with a maroon line filler. Text in French.Generally fresh and clean, with only minute pigment loss to rich colors; minor smudge to one border flower. A fine and beautiful illuminated leaf.
Illuminated leaf from a manuscript Book of Hours
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