French Book of Hours leaf, c. 1465, with a "grotesque"


Recto:  Text in Latin written on vellum in black ink a precise Gothic bookhand.   Ruled in red and rubrics in red.   One two-line illuminated initial ‘Q’ in blue with fine white penwork on a ground of burnished gold outlined in black.   The initial is infilled with coloured ivy leaves.  Three similar illuminated one-line initials and one line filler.  An intricate full length panel of illuminations of blue, red and liquid gold acanthus leaves and flowers is inhabited by a “grotesque” - a two-legged winged creature with two heads - one a crocodile and the other a ram with long curved horns.   Fine hairs cover the body and the ram’s head has some form of head covering.   While grotesques in medieval manuscripts are often subversively humorous or repugnant, this one is simply an extraordinary concoction of disparate elements.


Verso:  As Recto, with another four one-line illuminated initials, two illuminated line fillers and a similar panel of illuminations, but with no grotesque.


Origin: Northern France, probably Paris.


Date:   c.1465


Content:  The illuminated initial ‘Q’ on Recto begins the passage: Quemadmodum desiderat cervus ad fontes aquarum ita desiderat anima mea ad te Deus.  (In the same way that the stag is drawn unto the sources of water, so is my soul drawn unto you, God.)  The composer Buxtehude set these words to music for 2 violins, tenor and continuo.


Condition:  The leaf is in excellent condition with fine, clean vellum and outstanding illuminations. It is unconditionally guaranteed genuine. 


Notes:  Books of Hours were prayer books designed for the laity who wished to emulate the cycle of daily devotions followed by the clergy but without taking actual vows.  The contents grew out of the psalter but included a mixed variety of other types of material - hymns, lessons, biblical readings, calendars etc. Its central text is the Hours of the Virgin. There are eight Hours (times for prayer): Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline.


Size:  Size of leaf: approx. 130x100 mm. Text and illuminated area : approx. 70x75 mm.  Please note that postage for this item is free for Australian clients.  Overseas: ask for quote.


Stock No:  MBH092

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