Dragon/Bird hybrid. Book of Hours leaf, 1465, France

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A charming “grotesque” in the illuminated panel.

Recto: Text in Latin written on fine vellum in black ink a precise Gothic bookhand.   Ruled in red.   Three one-line illuminated initials in blue and salmon with fine white penwork on a ground of burnished gold outlined in black.  Three illuminated line fillers.   The initials are infilled with coloured flowers.  An intricate full length panel of illuminations of blue, red and liquid gold acanthus leaves and flowers is inhabited by a hybrid creature or “grotesque” consisting of a bird with a long outstretched wing and a dragon’s body and tail.  While grotesques in medieval manuscripts are often subversively humorous or repugnant, this one is simply immensely charming.

Verso:  As Recto, with four one-line illuminated initials, one line filler and a similar panel of illuminations, but with different flowers and no grotesque.

Origin:  Northern France, probably Paris.

Date:   c.1465

Content: The text on both Recto and Verso is from Psalm 142 (KJV 143), one of the Seven Penitential Psalms. (see Notes below).  The illuminated initial ‘M’ on the 5th line of Recto begins Verse 5: Memor fui dierum antiquorum meditatus sum in omnibus operibus tuis in factis manuum tuarum meditabar.  Expandi manus meas ad te anima mea sicut terra sine aqua tibi.  (I remember the days of old, I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of my hands.  I stretch forth my hands unto thee, my soul thirsteth after thee, as a  thirsty land.)

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

Notes:  The Seven Penitential Psalms or Psalms of Confession are the psalms 6, 31, 37, 50, 101, 129 & 142 (Vulgate numbering), or psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130 & 143 (KJV numbering). Authorship is traditionally ascribed to King David who composed them to atone for his grievous sins which included adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah. They have long been associated with penitential devotions and commended as defence against the seven deadly sins, each psalm being associated with one of them.   St. Augustine is said to have had them placed  before him to read while he was on his deathbed.

Size: Leaf: approx. 130x100 mm. Text and illuminated area : approx.  70x75 mm.

Item:  MBH131

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