Les Enluminures


Villeneuve Hours (Use of the Netherlands?)
In Latin, illuminated manuscript on parchment
Belgium, Bruges, c. 1450
With 22 miniatures by the Master(s) of the Gold Scrolls

As a European cultural capital, Bruges saw the birth of Flemish Primitives. The careers of the painters Jan van Eyck, Petrus Christus, Hans Memling, and Gerard David spanned the entire fifteenth century.  Illuminators worked side by side with these painters, contributing to make Bruges a major center for manuscript production, second only to Paris. Contemporary with Memling, the Master(s) of the Gold Scrolls is one such painter, noted for his Flemish naturalism, colorful palette, and ubiquitous backgrounds of gold squiggles or scrolls. This elegant manuscript features an unusually large number of his miniatures.

123 folios, complete, written in a neat Gothic book hand, on 20 long lines, ruled (justification 106 x 67 mm.), rubrics in red, versals in alternating highly burnished gold leaf with black penwork and blue with red penwork, 2-line initials in highly burnished gold leaf with blue and white tracery infill and red surrounds, 2 illuminated borders with highly burnished gold leaf and 6-line illuminated initials in blue with burnished gold leaf and ivy leaf infill, 22 three-quarter page illumination swith full borders and 5-line initials on burnished gold grounds, in excellent fresh condition with wide margins, 2 illuminated pages cut down, then reinserted intact in the manuscript (ff. 74 and 85), with a loss of c. 65 mm. in their outer margins.  In a 19th-century neo-Gothic style binding by Gruel and Engelmann of brown morocco, reading “Voluntas et Fides” with a shield of two lions rampant, in gold tooling on the upper and lower covers, edges gilt, red ribbing bearing the name of the binders, boxed.  Dimensions c. 205 x 140 mm.


1. Painted in Bruges by one of the best hands of the Master of the Gold Scrolls.  The use is identified by Madan as “Netherlands ?” but remains unrecorded in the CDH database of liturgical use. The calendar includes Bruges saints (e.g., Remigius and Bavonis). Other features, such as the inclusion of the prayers on the Seven Last Words and the placement of the Suffrages at the beginning of the book, are also typical of Bruges Books of Hours, especially those made for export.

2. From 1575 to 1953 the manuscript remained in the hands of the same family, whose names are entered throughout the calendar and in the text of the Seven Penitential Psalms and at the end of the Office of the Dead, as follows:  Jean Gebelin, Prior of the Abbey of Paix in Issoire in the Auvergne (1575), Chamerlat, de Villeneuve, and de Marce (1953), etc. 

3. James and Elizabeth Ferrell Collection, United States.


f. 1, illuminated leaf with the monogram of Jesus (I H S) and evidence of pilgrims badges now removed in the margins;

f. 1v, “Stabat mater” and “O intemerata” prayers added in the sixteenth century;

ff. 2-13v, Calendar, with Bruges saints Remigius and Bavonis;

ff. 14-28v, Suffrages, including John the Baptist (f. 14), George (f. 15v), Christopher (f. 17), Anthony (f. 18v), Catherine (f. 21v), Mary Magdalene (f. 23), Margaret (f. 24v), Barbara (f. 26), and Anne (f. 27v).

ff. 29-32v, Short Office of the Holy Spirit;

ff. 33-36v, Short Office of the Cross;

ff. 37-44, Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary;

ff. 45-49, “O Intemerata” and “Obsecro te” (f. 46v) with prayers in the masculine;

ff. 50-52v, Payers in Latin on the Seven Last Words of Jesus Christ;

ff. 53-89, Hours of the Virgin (Netherlands?; cf. Madan, Prime, antiphon, Assumpta est, capitulum, Que est ista; None, antiphon, Pulchra es, capitulum, Sicut cynamonum), Matins (f. 53), Lauds (f. 60), Prime (f. 67v, Terce (f. 71), Sext (f. 74), None (f. 77), Vespers (f. 80), Compline (f. 85v);

ff. 89v-90v, added prayers (sixteenth century);

ff. 91-100v, Seven Penitential Psalms and litanies, followed by an inscription that this book was given to Claude Gebelin d’Issoire (born 21 September 1575) from her godfather (Gebelin, Prior of the Abbey of Paix) on March 4, 1601, on the occasion of her wedding with Sire Jehan Boudet de Monterry;

ff. 101-118, Office of the Dead (use of Bruges), followed by prayers in several hands, and an ownership note of Jean Gebelin, Prior of the Abbey of Paix in Issoire, dated 1589;

ff. 118v-123v, Added prayers, including religious precepts, such as the Ten Commandments, the Seven Virtues, the Commandments of the Catholic Faith, etc. (note also in this section the elegant demonstration of various penmanship trials, from the 17th to the 19th centuries);


f. 14, Saint John the Baptist;

f. 15v, Saint George;

f. 17, Saint Christopher;

f. 18v, Saint Anthony;

f. 21v, Saint Catherine;

f. 23, Saint Mary Magdalene;

f. 24v, Saint Margaret;

f. 26, Saint Barbara;

f. 27v, Saint Anne;

f. 29, Pentecost;

f. 33, Crucifixion;

f. 37, Virgin and Child with Angel;

f. 53, Annunciation;

f. 60, Visitation;

f. 67v, Nativity;

f. 71, Annunciation to the Shepherds;

f. 74, Adoration of the Magi;

f. 77, Presentation in the Temple;

f. 80, Massacre of the Innocents;

f. 85v, Flight into Egypt;

f. 91, Last Judgment;

f. 101, Funeral Mass.

The twenty-two miniatures are of fine quality.  Most of them are by one of the best hands of the group known as the Master(s) of the Gold Scrolls, named for the use of gold scrolls on chocolate brown backgrounds in the illuminations.  Localized in Bruges, some of these artists signed their work with stenciled stamps, so they may have been foreigners, responding to the regulation passed in 1426 that all non-residents register their mark with the guild in order to have the right to sell their paintings.  The bright colors, extensive use of lapis lazuli, juxtaposed to brilliant green and red vermillion, and elegant Gothicizing figures are characteristics of the workshop and are especially effectively executed in the present example.


Unpublished, but compare:

Smeyers, M.  L’Art de la miniature flamande, VIIIe aux XVIe siècle, Tournai, Renaissance du livre, 1998, pp. 234-236.

Cardon, Bert.  “Gold Scrolls Group,” in Grove Art online (

BOH 126

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Reference Number: 126
EUR 128400 GBP 114000 USD 160000