Sainte-Benoîte Master

in Latin, from the Hours of the Virgin and including the beginning of Psalm 97.

Flanders or northern France, early 14th century.

A complete leaf (156 x 117 mm (text area 94 x 68 mm)) written in single columns of 14 lines in two sizes of a good formal gothic script, dark brown ink, ruled in ink, illuminated initial ‘C’ (Cantate domino canticum novum) on verso in shades of blue, mauve and orange against a burnished gold ground and enclosing a finely painted tonsured male head, ivyleaf marginal extensions, smaller initials in burnished gold against mauve and blue backgrounds highlighted in white, five burnished gold line-fillers (one enclosing an animal-headed drollery creature, another a running hare and a third two pairs of hairs and hounds arranged nose to nose); some minor smudging and staining, faint pen-trials in lower margin of recto, but in excellent condition.

£2250 + VAT

US $2824€2633

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in Latin, from the Hours of the Virgin and including the beginning of Psalm 97.

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An exquisite leaf from an exceptionally early Book of Hours. The defective parent manuscript, which also contained a Vie de sainte Marguerite in French rhyming verse, was lot 76 in Sotheby’s sale ‘Western Manuscripts and Miniatures’ of 17 December 1991, subsequent to which the leaves were dispersed. A fragment of sixteen leaves containing the Vie de sainte Marguerite is now Charlottesville, University of Virginia MS 12455.

Alison Stones has defined the oeuvre of the artist of the initial here, whom she calls the ‘Sainte-Benoîte Master’: ‘Particularly distinctive is his treatment of faces, framed by curly hair, with widely spaced eyes, a hallmark of his draftsmanship … He seems to have begun his career in Paris as he may be traced as the artist of a few figures in books otherwise illustrated by other artists, namely the Breviary of the Sainte-Chapelle for the use of a queen, and the Roman de Jules César in Rouen, Bibl. mun. 1050 (U12), which was substantially the work of the Méliacin Master. Then he turns up again working in a minor capacity in the fragmentary Book of Hours and Vie de sainte Marguerite Charlottesville, University of Virginia, MSS 12455 (olim Sotheby’s 17.xii.1991, lot 76) … where I note he was responsible only for the tiny initials with faces, while the opening of the Vie de sainte Marguerite is by another artist, perhaps Amiénois and similar to the Bodmer Roman de la Rose … Later in his career he is the major artist in important commissions … and he worked with several assistants’ (A. Stones, Gothic manuscripts 1260–1320 part I, vol. II p. 477, the present leaf illustrated as fig. 681).

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