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Majestic Illuminated Books of Hours Shine at Auction

On 15 June 2021, by Anne Doridou-Heim

Here, the vitality of French 15th- and 16th-century illumination and calligraphy studios was bathed in light.

Majestic Illuminated Books of Hours Shine at Auction

Paris, c. 1460. Book of Hours in Latin and French for use in Paris, illuminated manuscript on parchment by the Master of Coëtivy, 167 leaves, 13 x 19 cm/5.12 x 7.48 in.
Result: €269,760

The cover of La Gazette no. 20 featured the Urfé Psalter, which was made during the reign of François I and illuminated with scenes from the life of David. 16th-century inscriptions link it to the book-loving Urfé family, a name well known in art history for staging the love story of Astrea and the shepherd Celadon (L'Astrée by Honoré d'Urfé, published from 1607 to 1627) in their Château de la Bâtie, thus giving a name to Chinese porcelain's unique and exquisite green. This rare humanist manuscript has all of its 166 leaves and fetched €247,332, the auction’s second-highest bid.

First place went to another, equally precious object: a Book of Hours in Latin and French for the Paris rite, written and decorated in about 1460 with seven miniatures by the Master of Coëtivy (active in Paris from 1450 to 1485). The artist got his name by illustrating a Book of Hours for Olivier de Coëtivy, Charles VII’s chamberlain, and was famous as one of the best illuminators of his time, not far behind French painter and miniaturist Jean Fouquet (c 1420-1481). With all this going for it, no wonder the pious work sold for €269,760.

Two books from about 1500 also achieved good results. A manuscript enriched with miniatures by the Masters of Étienne Poncher, Jeanne Hervé and Philippe de Gueldre fetched €67,600. The result of a collaboration between three painters working in Paris between 1495 and 1510, it illustrates the free, elegant style in the "new Parisian repertory" and merges the compositions of different Loire artists. Lastly, another Book of Hours netted €58,500. It features 35 miniatures, including seven by the Master of the Scandalous Chronicle, so-named after his most important work, Jean de Roye's Chronique scandaleuse (now in the BnF, French National Library), and 28 by Étienne Poncher. Its shimmering colors are protected by a red morocco Parisian fanfare binding that probably dates from about 1590.
 

Paris, c. 1520-1530. Ferial psalter in French, illuminated manuscript on parchment with seven large miniatures by the artist designated as
Paris, c. 1520-1530. Ferial psalter in French, illuminated manuscript on parchment with seven large miniatures by the artist designated as "principal executant of the Statutes of the Order of St. Michael", close to the "Colaud group" and sometimes referred to as "privileged associate of Etienne Colaud", 166 leaves, complete, 19th-century binding, 10 x 16 cm/3.93 x 6.30 in.
Result: €247,332
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