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Book of Hours (?Use of Paris) – Fragment

Parchment · 1 leaf · 1490 – 1510 CE · France · 159 x 103 mm


Melbourne, The University of Melbourne Library, SpC/RB 60C/7
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The leaf was purchased in 2017 from Littera Scripta, Baringhup in Victoria.

Text: Hours of the Virgin, None. The text begins with a supplication and response, followed by the hymn Sicut erat veni creator spiritus [Come, Creator Spirit], antiphon Sicut lilium [As the Lily], then Psalm 125. The choice of antiphon may localise Use to Paris.

Illustration: Miniature (recto) representing the Presentation in the Temple, showing the bringing of the infant Jesus to be consecrated to the Lord, simultaneously with the Jewish rite of the 'purification' of the Virgin requiring the sacrifice of a pair of doves. Joseph is shown holding out 5 shekels in payment to redeem Jesus and the basket holding the doves.

At the bas-de-page the Phrygian Sibyl, identified by the banner with her name 'sibila frigea' holds a cross  prophesying Christ's crucifixion.

Surmounted above the miniature, an angel, arms outstretched, draws attention to the words written in red on the frame "Que est ista lux iustorum septa choris angelorum". It is a line taken from Psalterium Maria (no. 504 in Hymni Latini medii aevi).

Various elements of the miniature, in particular, its muted palette, figure types, haloes and liberal use of gold hatched highlights, as well as its ornate gold architectural frame, are notably close in style to the miniatures of an incomplete Book of Hours (with leaves of virtually identical size) sold by Sotheby's, Western Manuscripts & Miniatures, London 2 July 2013 (lot no. 68). The catalogue description dates it c.1510, and localises it to Rouen or Paris. Both works also depict Sibyllic oracles instead of the more usual prophets in the bas-de-page of the miniatures. 

Decoration: Text in black ink in lettre bâtarde, rubrics in blue. One 3-line initial (recto) formed of scrolls painted white on gold ground decorated with flower spray; one 2-line calligraphic initial (verso) in gold on blue ground ornamented with white patterns (verso) and ten 1-line initials in gold on blue, brown and rose grounds.

Side panel decorated with scrolling acanthus tendrils in blue and gold on brown ground, with daisy and snow pea flowers painted on triangular shapes of liquid gold.