EXTRAORDINARY ILLUMINATED LEAF FROM A FRENCH BOOK OF HOURS, CIRCA 1460, FEATURING A BEAUTIFUL MINIATURE OF THE MARTYRDOM OF ST. SEBASTIAN
(ILLUMINATED LEAF). Illuminated Leaf from a Book of Hours. Savoy, circa 1460. Single vellum leaf (4-1/4 by 5-3/4 inches), illuminated in gold, black, white, gray, red, yellow, green, blue, and brown inks. Window matted and framed, entire piece measures 13 by 10 inches.
Beautiful illuminated leaf from a French Book of Hours, circa 1460, featuring a domed miniature of the martyrdom of St. Sebastian; a four-line initial; four lines of text from the Suffrages; and a lovely border.
This beautiful illuminated leaf is from a Book of Hours from Savoy circa 1460. It comprises four lines from the Suffrages; a lovely domed miniature depicting the martyrdom of St. Sebastian by two archers, all set against a nature landscape dotted by small buildings. St. Sebastian has always been one of the most beloved Christian martyrs. While the agony of his partially nude martyrdom has always proven a compelling subject for artists, St. Sebastian was particularly popular in the late medieval era. At that time, his patronages—archers and protection from the bubonic plague—were immediately relevant in a way they would not be again. Here, St. Sebastian is shown bound to a pillar, his body already full of arrows with blood dripping from the wounds. Ghostly in complexion and dressed only in a loincloth, St. Sebastian looks deeply vulnerable next to the two sturdy archers facing him. The artist depicts the archers in the foreground, one with his bow ready to shoot and the other reaching down for arrows in preparation to reload. The archers are dressed in court dress, revealing their official status. In this scene, Sebastian has accepted his martyrdom, his face impassive while he meets the eyes of one archer. Ultimately, St. Sebastian did not die from his arrow wounds due to the committed nursing of St. Irene. He was actually clubbed to death at a later point, but the powerful vision of St. Sebastian shot through with arrows has always been both accepted and favored as a depiction of his martyrdom. The four-line initial is red and blue on a burnished gilt ground. The border features gilt and colored rules as well as traditional acanthus leaves, gold sprays, flowers, leaves, and berries. The verso is similar with one two line initial in golf on a blue and red filigree ground and 17 lines of red and black batarde script. This leaf appears to the be work of an artist in the circle of the Vienna Roman de la Rose Master, a Lyonnaise artist first identified in 1993 by Francois Avril. Avril and his co-author Nicole Reynaud show marked change to both the landscapes and borders circa 1460-65, which is likely when this leaf was created.