A 15th century example that sold at Forum Auctions on November 21 is one such example.
Forum’s Rupert Powell identified the book’s wealthy patron as the lady appearing in a black headdress with rose madder robe next to the Virgin in ultra marine on folio 91r. The coat of arms on the following page is also likely to relate to the family of this unknown woman.
The style of the illumination and iconographical features in this c.1480-85 manuscript with 14 full-page miniatures led Forum to attribute its production to the workshop, or a close follower of, the Maître de l’Échevinage. This master artist was named for a group of manuscripts he illuminated for the library of the Council of Aldermen (échevins) of Rouen which are now in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. He is also sometimes referred to as the Master of Latini Geneva, from a Brunetto Latini manuscript in the Geneva Library. The anonymous artist worked in the Norman town of Rouen between c.1450-85.
Among the notable elements of this copy is the emphasis placed on St John in the Gospel sequences. Usually, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are depicted similarly sized. However here the emphasis is on St John writing on a scroll. Forum noted this unusual iconography is distinctive of the Échevinage master, and is repeated (in slightly variant forms) by his followers.
Powell said the book had previously sold in a German auction in the 1930s when it was “as highly prized 90 years ago as it is now”. He added: “Books of Hours are not phenomenally rare but this example has some interesting elements and it was a great price.”
Amid a sparse supply of illuminated manuscripts at auction in recent months, it was hammered down at £70,000, against an estimate of £20,000-30,000 to a private UK online buyer.