Medieval illuminated manuscripts are hardly two a penny but religious works such as bibles and books of hours are much more frequently encountered than secular ones.
Pictured right is just such a secular rarity, a miniature of c.1444 from a French manuscript of an Arthurian text – Le Livre de Lancelot del Lac. It depicts The Siege of Winchester and shows a funeral procession carrying the litter of the Round Table knight Sir Lionel in through the city gate with soldiers on the battlemented walls aiming at the troops of Bohors.
There was a siege of Winchester in reality as well as in legend. It took place during the civil war between Stephen and Matilda in the first half of the 12th century when the powerful Henry of Blois was Bishop of Winchester.
The 15th century painting, which measures approximately 33/4in x 31/2in (10 x 9cm) and is priced at £30,000, features in an exhibition titled Paintings from Manuscripts – Medieval Miniatures which opens this week on July 3 at London dealer Sam Fogg in Clifford Street, W1 and runs until July 19.
The manuscript was probably created for Prigent de Coetivy (1400-50), Admiral of France in 1439, who was killed at the siege of Cherbourg. The miniatures were probably cut from the book in the 16th century and in the 19th century the painting belonged to Joachim Napoléon, fifth prince Murat.
There are a total of 47 works in the exhibition, ranging in date from the early 13th to the 16th century and several of the miniatures are attributed to painters of considerable repute such as Vincent Raymond, Juan de Carrion and Monte di Giovanni. They include cuttings and full pages from books of hours, missals and choir books. The latter includes two giant early 16th century illuminated choir book leaves from Spain, each nearly a metre in height, which are amongst the stars of the show. One of these, priced at £110,000, features an illuminated initial of the Virgin and Child which is pictured right.