Les Enluminures


Book of Hours (use of Geert Grote)
In Dutch, illuminated manuscript on parchment
The Netherlands (South Holland), c. 1485-90
With 7 inserted full-page miniatures by the Assumption Master, with borders and initials by the Monkey Master

Unique among European examples, Dutch Books of Hours are mostly written in the vernacular, in the language people used every day at home and in town. Frequent humor and homespun charm often characterize their illustrations, reinforcing a close connection with picture as well as text.  Two artists contributed to this volume.  The monumental miniatures by the Assumption Master resemble Dutch panel paintings on a small scale.  The amusing borders by the colorfully-named Monkey Master feature foxes, dogs, and monkeys scampering about amidst the foliage.

372 folios, mostly in gatherings of 8 leaves with full-page miniatures on the versos of inserted singletons (collation: i8, ii4; iii8 + one [full-page miniature] before 1, iv-vii8, viii6, ix8+ one [full-page miniature] before 1, x-xi8, xii4 + one [full-page miniature] before 1, xiii8+ one [full-page miniature] before 1, xiv-xvi8, xvii6, xviii8; xix-xx6, xxi8 + one [full-page miniature] after 8, xxii-xxiii8, xiv8 + one [full-page miniature] before 1, xxv-xxvi8, xxvii4, xxviii8 + one [full-page miniature] before 1, xix-xxxiv8, xxxv2, xxxvi-xl8, xli-xlviii8, xlix4, l4 [and lower pastedown]), with horizontal catch-words at the end of quires, ruled in black pen, in single column of 16 lines (justification c. 81-86 x 53-58 mm., the calendar c. 84-85 x 69-73 mm.), written in a Gothic textura by several scribes in black ink below top line, rubrics in red, modern foliation written in pencil in top right corner, 2- to 3-line capitals in blue and red with contrasting penwork decorations in red and purple throughout with flowers and other flourishes, 2- to 3-line initials in brown touched with gold set on blue touched with white (ff. 91, 204, 262), 3- to 6-line initials in gold set on red touched with gold (ff. 158, 175, 302), 7-line initials in gold, blue, red, orange, green, and violet paint, touched with white, decorated with flowers and acanthus (ff. 14, 61, 86), full-page miniatures on inserted singletons with arched compartments painted in blue, red, green, purple, and orange, with burnished gold, set on painted borders with acanthus, pea pods, flowers and flower buds, birds, peacocks, owls, monkeys, foxes, dogs, squirrels, and other beasts and hybrids (ff. 13v-14, 60v-70, 85v-86, 90v-91, 157v-158, 174v-175, 203v-204), with similar painted borders decorating text on two other folios (ff. 262, 302), very lightly rubbed in small areas, in clean and fresh condition. Bound in a near-contemporary (16th century) blind-tooled paneled calf binding with six raised bands, both clasps and front hardware lost, but otherwise in good condition.  Dimensions c. 131 x 101 mm.


1. The pictures and decoration are consistent with an origin in South Holland.  One of the manuscripts in the group was made in Leiden (The Hague, KB, MS 133 H 16).  The Monkey Master collaborated with the Assumption Master who worked in Delft.

2. The upper pastedown inscribed with a sixteenth-century rhymed Latin text on the Crucifixion, accompanied by a Dutch translation.              

3. Gerard Vanius, his MS K (inscribed “No. K ex libris Gerardi Vanij” in the top right corner of f. 1r).

4. Private Collection, France (sale Paris, Hotel Drouot, 29 September 1998, lot 176, sold 220,000 FF plus charges, approximately 47,000 Euro); subsequently, Les Enluminures, Cat. 9 [2000], no. 30.

5. Private Collection, United States (book plate, James and Elizabeth Ferrell).


ff. 1-12v, Calendar of Utrecht, in red and black, with an entry for virtually every day;

ff. 14-59, Hours of the Virgin, use of Geert Grote, incipit “Onser vrou getide”; f. 59v, ruled, otherwise blank;

ff. 61-84, Seven Penitential Psalms and litanies, “Die seven salme,” f. 84v ruled, otherwise blank;

f. 86r-89v, Prayers to Christ, including Verses of Saint Gregory (ff. 86-87v); prayers to the Virgin (ff. 87v-88); Saint Anne (ff. 88r-v); Saint Barbara (ff. 88v-89); and the Guardian Angel (ff. 89r-89v), written by a second scribe, added after the first version of the text was written but before the painted decoration;

ff. 91-118, Hours of the Cross, “Hier beghint dat langhe heilich cruus ghetide”;

ff. 118-156v, Masses of the Holy Cross (ff. 118-127v); the Sacrament (ff. 127v-136v); the Virgin ff. 136v-144v); the Resurrection (ff. 145-150v); and prayers for Communion and Christmas at the hours of Prince, Terce, Sext, and None (ff. 151-156v);

ff. 158-172v, Short Hours of the Holy Spirit, “Dit is die heilige geest ghetide,” f. 173r-v ruled, otherwise blank;

ff. 175-202v, Hours of Eternal Wisdom, “Hier beghint der ewigher wijsheit ghetide in duutsche”;

ff. 204-255v, Office of the Dead (major and minor forms), no rubric (commences with the preface from Geert Grotes’ translation and compilation with the opening part underlined to serve as a surrogate for a rubric), “Hier beghint die vigilie in duutsche die gheordineert is te helpen den ghenen die van hene ghevaren sijn inder vrienscap gods….”;

ff. 255v-261, Mass of the Dead, “Hier beghint die ziel misse ende ten eersten die confiteoer,” f. 261v, ruled, otherwise blank;

ff. 262-300, Prayers on the Life and Passion of Christ, “Dese ghebede ende oefeninghe sijn van die gheboerten ende levene ende passie ons heren ihesu xrpisti.  Ghebenedijt ende gheloeft si di hemelsche vader uwer ewigher minnen daer gi ons mede gheminnet hebt.  Ghebenedijt ende gheloeft si di hemelsche vader al uwer goede ende al uwer gaeven …” (a narrative review of the Life and Passion of Christ, beginning with the Incarnation and extending through the Resurrection and the Last Judgment, in 70 prayers, most beginning either “O heer ihesu xpisti …” or “O maria weerde moeder ons heren …”, rubricated for recitation at the canonical hours, None (f. 289), Vespers (f. 292v), and Compline (f. 293v), ff. 300v-301v ruled, otherwise blank;

ff. 302-369v, Manual of Saint Augustine, “Hier beghint sunte augustijns hantboec dat eerste capittel is vander scouwinghe ons heren ihesu xpristi” (ed. J. J. A. Lub, Sinte Augustijns Hantboec:  de Middelnederlandse vertalingen van het aan Augustinus toegeschreven Manuale, 2 vols., Assen, 1962);

ff. 370-372v, Prayer to Christ and hymn of Saint Michael, followed (f. 372v) by an added Dutch invocation to Mary and the Choir of Angels.

In addition to the standard sections of a Book of Hours, the expanded text in the present book includes lengthy Prayers on the Life and Passion of Christ, as well as the Manual of Saint Augustine, both unrecorded in any other Dutch Book of Hours.


f. 13v, Annunciation;

f. 60v, David in Penitence;

f. 85v, Mass of St. Gregory, with souls in Purgatory at the base of the altar;

f. 90v, Crucifixion, with a pelican in her piety in the lower margin (piercing its breast to feed its young);

f. 157v, Pentecost;

f. 174v, Christ among the Doctors;

f. 203v, Last Judgment.

This is a most unusual manuscript in clean, fresh condition. It includes seven miniatures by an exceedingly rare and highly accomplished Dutch illuminator, the Assumption Master. The Assumption Master is named after the spectacular miniature of the Assumption of the Virgin he painted in the Breviary of Beatrijs van Assendelft (Utrecht, Rijksmuseum Het Catharijneconvent, MS 0KM 3).  In the exhibition of Dutch manuscript illumination, the authors described this manuscript as “the most prestigious extant Northern Netherlandish manuscript dating from the last quarter of the fifteenth century.” (Defoer, 1990).

Together with Haarlem and Leiden, Delft was one of largest towns in Holland during the fifteenth century. A thriving commercial center, located at the crossroads of several trading routes, the town was also an important religious center, and extant works evince the patronage of both lay and monastic clients. Delft had two large parish churches, a community of Beguines, an important house of the Brothers of the Common Life, and various convents of different orders dedicated to Saints Agnes, Barbara, Agatha, and Ursula. A devastating fire in 1536 almost completely razed the town, leaving large gaps in our knowledge about the artists, their guilds, and the patronage. For this reason, any surviving artistic work connected with Delft has special interest. Perhaps the present manuscript was made for an Augustinian nun in one of the local convents, a hypothesis suggested by the presence of the rare additional texts and confirmed by the presence of suffrages for female saints.

The style of the Assumption Master is immediately recognizable by his bright palette, including the generous use of mauve, his figures with pronounced, sometimes caricatured, faces (high foreheads and profile poses), and his painterly technique. His well-composed miniatures resemble panel paintings, particularly those by the anonymous Master of the Virgo into Virgines, an accomplished painter active in Delft in the last quarter of the fifteenth century, who also inspired his facial types. The present Book of Hours emerges as a principal work by the Assumption Master, who is known only in two other manuscripts, the Breviary of Beatrijs van Assendelft to which he contributed four full-page miniatures and two historiated initials and a Book of Hours in The Hague where he collaborated with another Delft artist, the Monkey Master, adding three miniatures (The Hague, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, MS 135 K 40). A

As he did in The Hague book, the Assumption Master evidently collaborated in the borders of the present manuscript with the Monkey Master, who takes his name from the monkeys that scamper about amongst other drolleries in his margins.  His style is further characterized by the presence of many other drolleries in his dense borders – foxes and dogs with cowls, peacocks, etc. – as well as the bulbous eggplant-like (“aubergine”) forms.  His richly colored palette is strong and highly contrasted, and his style of drawing is sharp and linear. 

The artist is grouped with Delft painters, but he is considered instead to be from South Holland.  Elements of his style derive from Delft artists, such as the Master of Herman Droem and the Master of the Adair Hours, and he collaborated with the Assumption Master, all from Delft.  A small coherent group of five Books of Hours are attributed to this artist – six with the present manuscript.  They are:  The Hague, KB, MS 135 K 40; MS 74 G 30; MS 133 H 16; Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, MS 78 B3; and Weert, BM 17.  Of these, MS 135 K 40 is the only manuscript to have miniatures by the Monkey Master; three are by the Monkey Master, and three are by the Assumption Master.  Korteweg assumes that The Hague manuscript, which is of thoroughly Delft origin, was completed in South Holland.   To this group, James Marrow has added a Prayer roll in Harvard University (Houghton Library MS Typ 286).  For comparisons of the dog with the cowl, the richly painted peacock, and the “aubergine” forms, see the first membrane of the Harvard manuscript and ff. 14 and 175 of the present Hours.  It has not been verified whether a manuscript from the William Foyle Library is also from the same group (London, Christie’s, 11 July 2000, lot 64, which states that three miniatures are by the Monkey Master with Delft borders).

Two of the manuscripts in the group are dated 1484 and 1489 (see Korteweg, 1992, nos. 43 and 50).  The present manuscript must therefore be paintd around the same time.

We are grateful to James Marrow and Anne Korteweg for their assistance with this description.


Unpublished, but compare:

Defoer, Henri, et al., The Golden Age of Dutch Manuscript Painting, New York, 1990, pp. 265-266, pp. 277-278, cat. no 95.

Hamburger Jeffrey F., William P. Stoneman, Anne-Marie Eze, Lisa Fagin Davis and Nancy Netzer, Beyond Words, Illuminated Manuscripts in Boston Collections, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2016, cat. no. 50 (by James Marrow).

Korteweg, Anne, Kriezels, aubergines en takkenbossen.  Randversiering in Noordnederlandse handschriften uit de vijftiende eeuw, Zutphen, 1992, pp. 71-72, and cat. nos. 50-52.

BOH 141

Read full Description

Reference Number: 141
EUR 131300 GBP 116900 USD 150000