Catalog Archive
Auction 196, Lot 737

"Illuminated Leaf", Anon.

Subject: Medieval Manuscripts

Period: 1450 (circa)


Color: Hand Color

4.4 x 6 inches
11.2 x 15.2 cm
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Book of Hours were prayer books designed for the laity, but modeled on the Divine Office, a cycle of daily devotions, prayers and readings, performed by members of religious orders and the clergy. 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. During the Middle Ages, the leaves making up a Book of Hours were written by hand on expensive parchment and beautifully illuminated with jewel-like pigments and gold leaf. These illuminated manuscripts combined the collaborative efforts of an array of highly skilled craftspeople; requiring the joint labors of the parchmenter, professional scribes to write the text in Gothic script, artists to illuminate the pages with decorations, and masterful binders to complete the process.

This decorative leaf is from a Dutch Book of Hours. Most Books of Hours were in Latin at the time, and it is believed that this one was translated into Dutch by Geert Grote, who thought that even commoners should be able to read religions books. Geert Groote was an important member of the Brothers of the Common Life, a reform movement in the Netherlands in the 14th century that sought to bring worship and the basic teachings of the Bible to laymen. From then on most Dutch Books of Hours were written in Dutch. This sheet of high-quality vellum is decorated with one large initial in blue, red and green, and fine pen work extending into the margin. Beginning at the bottom on recto, the text includes part of Psalm 23, which translates as:

The Lord ruleth me: and I shall want nothing.
He hath set me in a place of pasture. He hath brought me up, on the water of refreshment:
he hath converted my soul. He hath led me on the paths of justice, for his own name's sake.
For though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evils, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they have comforted me.


Condition: A

A bit of marginal soiling.

Estimate: $275 - $350

Sold for: $250

Closed on 2/7/2024