Taken from a Book of Hours, this late 15th-century miniature attributed to Jean Colombe joins the collection of the Musée National du Moyen Âge in Paris.
Attributed to Jean Colombe (c. 1430-1493), Nativity, miniature from a Book of Hours, introducing the Prime for the Office of the Virgin, Bourges (or Troyes?), c. 1480-1485, 135 x 90 mm/5.31 x 3.54 in.
Two works from the collection of Jean-Joseph Marquet de Vasselot (1871-1946) were particularly noteworthy. The Musée de Cluny in Paris—where he was appointed director in 1926 after curating the Louvre's Department of Objets d'Art—preempted this miniature for €12,500: a fine acquisition on the eve of the museum's reopening on May 12, 2022. The style of this illumination enables its attribution to Jean Colombe. Active in Bourges from 1463 to 1493, and probably in Troyes and Lyon as well, he is famous for completing the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry for Charles I of Savoy. The composition of the scene—a stable with an exposed frame surrounded by woven fences—, the figures' features, the drapery of the clothes and the marble-like dark green frame speckled with white all link this Nativity scene with the one illustrating the Hours for the Roman Rite now in Besançon's municipal library. As with other manuscripts painted by Jean Colombe, which feature the first words of the psalm excerpts composing the texts for the canonical hours, we find here the phrase, in gold letters, "Deus in adiutorium [meum intende]..." introducing the Prime for the Office of the Virgin. From the same collection, a bifoliate dating from the 1400s, taken from the Pseudo-Aristotelian Problemata translated by Évrard de Conty, fetched €40,000, doubling its estimate.