"O LORD, OPEN THOU MY LIPS AND MY MOUTH SHALL DECLARE THY PRAISE": BEAUTIFUL ILLUMINATED LEAF FROM A 15TH-CENTURY BELGIAN BOOK OF HOURS, FEATURING A VERY LARGE FLORIATED INITIAL AND A STRIKING MINIATURE OF THE AGONY IN THE GARDEN
(ILLUMINATED LEAF). Illuminated Leaf from a Book of Hours. Bruges, Belgium, circa 1460-79. Single vellum leaf (5-1/2 by 7-3/4 inches), illuminated in gold, black, white, gray, red, pink, green, blue, and brown inks; matted and window framed, entire piece measures 16 by 13 inches.
Beautiful illuminated leaf from a 15th-century Belgian Book of Hours—likely for English use—featuring a very large floriated initial; a lovely, detailed miniature of the Agony in the Garden; and an elaborate floral border.
This beautiful illuminated leaf is from a Book of Hours, use of Sarum, from Bruges, Belgium, circa 1460-1479. This Book of Hours was probably for export, as the use of Sarum (or Sarum Rite) was most widely adopted throughout the nations of the British Isles. Although the Sarum Rite fell out of us in the 16th century, it had a marked influence on the Anglican rites that followed. This leaf comprises a large miniature of the Agony in the Garden; a large, six-line initial "D," seven lines of text, and a large floral border. The miniature carefully depicts the Agony in the Garden (the events at the Garden of Gethsemane between the Last Supper and Jesus' arrest). Immediately after the Last Supper, Jesus took a walk to pray with three of his disciples, Peter, John and James. Once in the Garden, Jesus asked his disciples to stay awake and pray, while he moved slightly away to pray to God. There, he asked God for mercy, but promised to accept God's will regardless, using the metaphor of being forced to drink from a poisoned cup. Throughout his prayer, Jesus checked on his disciples and found them asleep, acknowledging that "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. This miniature depicts Jesus kneeling in front of a radiant God with the cup between them, with all three disciples asleep in the foreground. The garden is shown as surrounded by a wooden fence with trees in the background. There are also seven lines of text from the Hours of the Virgin, begun with a six-line initial "D," executed in pink, white, and gold on a blue and white filigree ground, with a bouquet of flowers on a burnished gilt ground inserted into the center of the "D." Double rules in gold and pink surround the miniature and the text. This leaf also boasts a lovely floral border, with the familiar acanthus leaves, flowers, and sprays. The 18 lines of text on the verso are similar to that on the recto, with one two-line initial (in gilt on filigree) and four one-line initials (two in gilt on filigree and two in blue on filigree). This leaf is executed in a style reminiscent of Willem Vrelant and his Bruges school of illumination, active in the second half of the 15th century. Vrelant was one of the most prolific and successful illuminators working in Flanders at the time, relying on numerous assistants and artists. The composition of this piece is almost identical to that of another Bruges Book of Hours from the 1460s, now held at the Free Library of Philadelphia (Widener 3, the "John Browne Hours").