Bid to £180,000 at Sotheby’s (25/20/12.9%) on December 5, it was one that by the early 19th century had found its way into the hands of a Russian princess.
Presenting 15 large miniatures with full borders and boasting three-sided borders to all text pages (see illustration above), the illumination of this manuscript was begun by a craftsman known as the ‘Master of the Munich Golden Legend’.
It was, however, continued and completed by an artist described –rather quaintly to some English ears, I imagine – as close to the Master of Thomas Hoo.
A painter of the circle of the Bedford Master, the latter was named for a Book of Hours made for a chancellor of Normandy and France during the English occupation at the end of the Hundred Years War, but just to confuse matters further, he is also known as the Master of Jean Popincourt.
The little manuscript contains many early birth and death entries relating to the Coutier-Bernay family, but in 1842 it had moved on to Russia and was given by Princess Jóezefa Lubomirska to her daughter Isabel, who in 1823 had married Prince Sergei Gagarine.
Lively sale involves Lazio
Highlights of a December 12 manuscript sale held by Bloomsbury Auctions (24/20/12% buyer’s premium) included, at £80,000, a large format Romanesque parchment manuscript of the Vitae Patrum from a cathedral library in Rieta, a city in the Lazio region of Italy.
A complete manuscript of 143 leaves, it is thought to date from the second quarter of the 12th century and is still in the original binding or reversed calf over thick wooden boards.
Even earlier was a lot offering three cuttings, one with a decorated initial, from a large Carolingian theological compendium that is believed to be of French origin and to date from the first half of the 9th century.
Like so many early fragments, they had emerged from a later, defective binding in which they had been used as packing – in this instance a 17th century French binding from a Jesuit library in Grenoble. It sold at £6000.
Sold for £60,000 in a Bonhams (25/20/12% buyer’s premium) sale of November 15 was a 13th century French manuscript of the Gospel of St Matthew.
Rubricated throughout its 102 leaves, it has an opening historiated initial miniature depicting St Matthew at his lectern, an angel above him, and on one spread bears a large initial L of burnished gold and colours whose design incorporates in one corner a dragon spitting fire.
A Judaica sale held by Sotheby’s New York (25/20/12.9% buyer’s premium) on December 20 included an illuminated Hebrew Bible produced in Spain in the first half of the the 14th century that carried an estimate of $3.5m-5m. Prior to sale, however, it was acquired at an undisclosed sum by New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.