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Bening enjoyed a long and prosperous career and in the 1530s, when this exquisite little manuscript was most likely produced, he was enjoying princely patronage in Spain, Portugal and Germany, as well as in his Flemish homeland, and though there is no certain evidence of its early ownership, the feast of Vincent of Saragossa features in the sparse Calendar and the Litany has Berard and his associates among the martyrs, plus Engratia of Saragossa as the final virgin.

All three saints were venerated in Portugal, and it is possible that the manuscript was made for a member of the Portuguese court. The fact that the early 19th century binding of panelled red morocco with its copper gilt clasp and catch of crossed cross anchor also appears to be of Spanish or Portuguese origin only serves to underline the proposition.

Principal decoration comprises 12 Calendar miniatures of the occupations appropriate to the months, 22 full-page miniatures (including that of St. James seen here) and 23 full-page borders of Ghent/Bruges type. Many of the latter have strewn flowers on yellow or brown grounds flecked with gold and including birds and insects, while in others the flowers are replaced with jewels, animals, figures or other emblems – such as the shells seen in this example. The manuscript was sold at £700,000 in the Christie’s sale of July 9.