A masterpiece by the Master of Spencer 6

On 12 February 2020, by Agathe Albi-Gervy

This large miniature reveals all its iconographic treasures in a French Book of Hours from the 1500s.

Book of Hours, Rite of Rome (Hours of the Virgin and Office of the Dead), France, very certainly Bourges, ca. 1500-1510, illuminated manuscript on parchment, in Latin and French, 156 ff, 36 large miniatures, 35 small miniatures and four historiated initials by the Master of Spencer 6, 127 x 185 mm.
Estimate: €600,000/800,000

In this Elysian plain depicting Adam and Eve with Christ, every feature is designed to reassure sinners of their redemption. Praise God, at the end of time the faithful will find this primordial golden age of joy and serenity: an Eden where men and animals live in peace and spring rules eternal on Earth, providing living creatures with all they need. The stag, symbol of prudence and the triumph of Good over Evil, embodies souls aspiring to return to God. Viewers will comprehend the warning, hidden behind a bush, in the form of a horse, seen by the Church Fathers as an allegory of Lust and Pride. Danger also lurks in the plethora of ripe, glistening, enticing fruits setting off the foliage of the apple trees: the very fruit that will soon cause the fall of man. Here there are no walls: the Garden of Eden stretches to infinity, and its inhabitants are one. It has not yet been forbidden to the two future sinners who stand, hands joined in prayer, before Christ, "the last Adam". The well lying at the intersection of four river branches is borrowed from the hortus conclusus: a secret garden expressing the essence of the Virgin Mary, whose clear flowing water contrasts with the still waters of sin. An enigma in three dimensions, its architecture seems like a pure product of the Italian Renaissance, as witness the twisted columns with Corinthian capitals, the half-pilasters, the friezes with plant motifs, the garlands of acanthus leaves, the atmospheric perspective reminiscent of Leonardo and the almost Cranach-like naturalism of the naked bodies – all illustrating how porous influences were in the Europe of the 1500s. This diptych, one of the thirty-six large miniatures contained with thirty-five smaller ones in the Book of Hours known as "de G et H", shows an obvious familiarity with the Duc de Berry's Très Riches Heures and its luxuriant landscapes. Its creator, named the Master of Spencer 6 (after a similar Book of Hours now in the New York Public Library, in the Spencer collection, certainly worked in Bourges, the dynamically creative town that played such a large part in adapting French art to the Renaissance aesthetic. This changing contemporary world can be seen throughout the parchment pages in the hunting scenes, the work in the field, the ships and the clothes reflecting the latest Italian fashions, with exotic touches like the proud-necked giraffe glimpsed here in the distance.

Robert Beauvillain: the love of illustrated books

On 27 February 2020, by Anne Foster

A chance to savour the exquisite Hours, early printed works and illustrated books contained in this library, part of which is coming up for sale soon at Drouot.

France, Paris, ca.1400-1410, Book of Hours according to the Roman rite (Hours of the Virgin and Office of the Dead), illuminated Latin manuscript on parchment with 13 large miniatures (reproduced: The Annunciation) attributable to the Master of Luçon (Maître d’Étienne Loypeau), working in Paris between 1390 and 1415-1417.
Estimate: €250,000/350,000

Very little is known about Robert Beauvillain. His erudite taste for fine paper, glowing illuminations and gouaches, gold-tooled bindings and refined doublures led the bibliophile to acquire several masterpieces in the history of books, starting with illuminated manuscripts.

Royal workshops
Medieval society was mostly illiterate: reading and writing were the prerogative of monks and clergymen, and also a symbol of the power of kings and a few princes. This splendour led to the creation of specialised workshops in the various trades involved in producing books. The most famous exponents were established in Paris, such as the Master of Luçon (or Master of Etienne Loypeau). The thirteen large rectangular miniatures dating from c. 1410-1420 in one of the jewels of this collection, the Hours of Pierre Soppite and Marie Deschevert, are attributed to him. The manuscript was acquired in the 17th century by Pierre Soppite, the king's counsellor and first valet, and Marie Deschevert, who had it bound in red morocco.

Franz Toussaint (1879-1955), Le Jardin des caresses (The garden of caresses), manuscript of 52 pages, illustrated with a title and nine wa
Franz Toussaint (1879-1955), Le Jardin des caresses (The garden of caresses), manuscript of 52 pages, illustrated with a title and nine watercolours by Léon Carré (1878-1942); Bradel vellum binding, c. 1920.

Another gem is the Book of Hours according to the Roman rite, known as the "Hours of G and H" (Hours of the Virgin and Office of the Dead): one of the great paintings by the Master of Spencer in this illuminated manuscript on parchment was described in our article of February 12: "A masterpiece by the Master of Spencer 6". The Bourges artist collaborated with the Master of Philippe de Gueldre in Paris. Eighteen large miniatures and thirty-four small ones painted by the latter and the Master of Etienne Poncher feature in the Book of Hours according to the Paris rite (Paris, c. 1500), an illuminated manuscript in Latin and French on parchment, here expected to fetch around €25,000. Printed books began to flourish in the early 16th century. To vie with manuscripts, they still resembled them with their colourful engravings, as witness a copy of the first Latin edition of Sébastien Brant's Stultifera Navis (Basel, Johannes Bergman de Olpe, March 1497), in a late 18th century English binding, estimated at around €12,000. This great invention even helped extend the legacy of illuminated books, including one masterpiece, The Great Hours of Anne of Brittany, printed by Léon Curmer in Paris in 1859-1861.
 

Hours of Queen Anne of Brittany. Paris, Curmer, (1859-1861), large in-4o volume; publisher's Gospel binding in garnet velvet with gilt met

Hours of Queen Anne of Brittany. Paris, Curmer, (1859-1861), large in-4o volume; publisher's Gospel binding in garnet velvet with gilt metal decoration and sixteen imitation stones.
Estimate: €3,000/4,000

Of love and eroticism
After the period of courtly love, amorous sentiments became bolder. An element of seduction began to imbue illustrations, as in Jean de la Fontaine's Amours de Psyché et de Cupidon printed in Paris in 1795. Even more daring was a book by Andrea de Nerciat (1739-1800), Les Écarts du tempérament, Esquisse dramatique (London, 1785); here, a first edition illustrated with four free figures is estimated at some €2,000. In the 19th century, poets from Apollinaire to Wilde were in the limelight, with texts set off by exquisite illustrations, like Léon Carré's strikingly rich watercolours for Le Jardin des caresses, poems translated from the Arabic by Franz Toussaint. Meanwhile André des Gachons (1871-1951) won over Émile Verhaeren with his delicate Symbolist watercolours, particularly appealing in La Guirlande des dunes, which includes the poem "Les Plages". A copy of the three volumes of Toute la Flandre, estimated at €3,000, reflects Robert Beauvillain's love for illustrated texts: the guiding theme of this outstanding library.

One of Flaubert's "Three Tales" expressed in images by Malatesta
 
Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880)- Henri Malteste, aka Malatesta (1870-1920), La Légende de Saint Julien l’Hospitalier. Écrite, enluminée et hi

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880)- Henri Malteste, aka Malatesta (1870-1920), La Légende de Saint Julien l’Hospitalier. Écrite, enluminée et historiée par Malatesta. Terminé à Paris le 16 février 1905 pour Monsieur Lucien Claude- Lafontaine, manuscript of 52 in-4o parchment leaves; brown morocco binding on bevelled wood covers by Marius Michel.
Estimate: €4,000/5,000



Flaubert lighted upon the legend of Saint Julian (a prince's son and a keen hunter) in 1844, after seeing the stained-glass windows featuring Julian the Hospitalier in Rouen cathedral while visiting his father. Octave Join-Lambert, who wrote the preface to the 1906 edition, states that Flaubert had expressed his desire that "St Julian should be followed by the stained-glass windows of Rouen Cathedral." His wish was granted with the manuscript commissioned from Henri Malteste - aka Malatesta - by a bibliophile banker, Lucien Claude-Lafontaine. Inserting his compositions into decorative calligraphy, Malatesta remained faithful to the scenes in the Rouen window. 170 copies were published in the 1906 edition based on this manuscript. Sully Prud'homme, on receiving his copy from the artist, experienced "a rare joy, where the pleasure for the mind is intensified by the delight to the eye."

Captivating Book of Hours from the golden age of miniatures

On 28 May 2020, by Claire Papon

Attributed to the Master of Luçon, this Book of Hours from the Beauvillain Library recalls the golden age of the miniatures during the time of the Duke of Berry.

France, Paris, around 1400-1410. Book of Hours for use in Rome (Hours of the Virgin and Mass for the Dead) for Pierre Soppite and Marie Deschevert, manuscript in Latin on parchment illuminated with 13 miniatures, 151 leaves.
Estimate: €250,000/350,000

The period of the Duke Jean de Berry (1340-1416) speaks for itself, a time of delicate and shimmering miniatures. These are attributed to the Master of Luçon or the Master of Etienne Loypeau, an artist active in Paris between 1390 and 1415-1417, of whom about 20 religious manuscripts are are preserved in public collections. Diversifying his output, in 1406 he began to work for aristocrats, including members of the Berry and Bourgogne families, whose moral treatises and secular texts he decorated. The 13 miniatures in our Book of Hours bear witness to his attachment to the formulas inherited in the 14th century: traditional mosaic or diamond-shaped backgrounds, bare floors, costumes in sober colours but with well-defined drapes, backgrounds of steep rocks, surrounded by flowers and vine leaves. The manuscript, which is traditional and was copied and illuminated in Paris, bears a date, 1661, and a handwritten note specifying that it belonged to Marie Deschevert and Pierre Soppite, counsellor and first valet to Louis XIV. In the 1830s-1840s, it was in the sparkling Clicquot Collection in Reims. This is enough to make the Beauvillain library's auctions sparkle today.

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