A Connoisseur's Delight: 18 Rare 15th-Century Books of Hours

On 28 May 2021, by Claire Papon

Connoisseurs will have their choice of several manuscripts illuminated in France, including a work by the Coëtivy Master.

Book of Hours for Use in Paris in Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on parchment by the Coëtivy Master, 167 leaves, Paris, c. 1460, 13 x 19 cm /5.19 x 7.48 in.
Estimate: €130,000/150,000

For laypeople a Book of Hours, which combines liturgical texts and illuminations, was essential for private prayer. This sale offers 18 that were intended for use in Paris, Rouen and Rome, the most precious one being the Urfé Psalter (€200,000/25,000). A work intended for use in Rome Rites (c. 1495-1500) by the Master of Robert Gaguin, the Master of the Parisian Processionals and Rouen’s Robert Boyvin and Jean Serpin is expected to fetch €120,000/150,000. The Coëtivy Master illuminated the other Book of Hours, estimated €130,000/150,000 (see photo). It is in mint condition, free of scaling and contains seven large miniatures—a small number explained by the fact that a single painting illustrates the Hours of the Virgin. Nobody will complain: the artist, named for the person who commissioned an illuminated manuscript for Charles VII’s chamberlain, Olivier de Coëtivy, and his wife Marie de Valois, is very famous. Active in Paris between 1450 and 1485, he "can be considered the third-greatest painter of royal France at that time after Fouquet and Barthélemy d’Eyck”, wrote Nicole Reynaud and François Avril in Les Manuscrits à peintures en France 1440-1520 (Manuscripts with Paintings in France 1440-1520, Paris, 1993).

Trained in Flanders and Picardy, the Coëtivy Master may be the same person as Colin d'Amiens, also called Nicolas d'Ypres, son of André d'Ypres, who settled in Paris around 1450. He worked for the Royal Court of France and belonged to a triad of miniaturists including the Master of Dreux Budé (André d’Ypres?) and the Master of the Three Small Hours of Anne de Bretagne (Jean d’Ypres?). The saturated colors, gold hatching heightening the figures’ brightness, soft, round faces and understated decoration date our manuscript to Colin’s earliest years of production (before 1470). He was a "hystorieur et enlumyneur, bourgeois de Paris" who designed patterns for tapestries and stained glass windows and "paintrerie" (painting) for the funeral of Charles VII.

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