A delightful Bruges Book of Hours by the Gold Scrolls Master of Berlin Kunstbibliothek MS Grisebach 4, this was a pocket-sized commission for a female owner who is represented twice in prayer. A particularly ﬁne example of the Masters of the Gold Scrolls style rendered on a small scale, her Hours feature carefully balanced compositions set against the customary gold scrollwork, a vibrant palette and charming dense acanthus borders richly populated with angels, grotesques, and drolleries.
ii + 284 + i leaves, lacking one miniature leaf at the opening of Prime, but apparently otherwise complete, written in a rounded slightly Italianate hand, on 14 lines, ruled in red ink (justification 54 x 54 mm.), many 1- and 2-line initials in highly blue, red, and highly burnished gold leaf, with contrasting calligraphic penwork, EIGHTEEN FULL PAGE MINAITURES with facing text pages displaying large illuminated initials all with full borders, the borders inhabited by half-length angels, animals, drolleries, one-sided rinceaux borders scattered throughout, in good condition though closely cropped, small marginal tear repaired ff. 223-226. Bound in 18th-century gilt-tooled red morocco, medallions of the Crucifixion on the upper cover and the Virgin and Child on the lower cover, edges gilt (lacking bottom clasp, boxed. Dimensions 97 x 67 mm.
1. The presence of the 14 June feast of St Basil in red in the calendar suggests a Bruges origin; these Hours must have been made there for a female owner, the same lady in contemporary dress represented twice in the manuscript, kneeling in prayer before the Virgin and Child at the opening of the Mass of the Virgin (f. 28v) and the Trinity at the opening of the Hours of the Passion (f.1 45v).
2. There are no other signs of ownership in the manuscript, although some penciled marks probably refer to dealer or auction inventory number: 49254 (inside front pastedown),
ff. 1-12, Calendar;
ff. 12v-19, Short Hours of the Cross;
ff. 20v-27, Short Hours of the Holy Spirit;
ff. 28v-35, Mass of the Virgin;
ff. 35v-41, Gospel Extracts;
ff. 43v-113, Hours of the Virgin, use of Rome; Matins (f. 43); Lauds (f. 64), Prime (f. 76), Terce (f. 82); Sext (f. 88); None (f. 94); Vespers (f. 100); and Compline (f. 109).
ff. 114-124, Advent Hours of the Virgin;
ff. 125-138, Seven Penitential Psalms;
ff. 138v-144, Litany;
ff. 145v-174, Hours of the Passion;
ff. 175v-223, Office of the Dead, ff. 175v-223;
ff. 224v-241, Passion according to St. Matthew;
ff. 242-255, Passion according to St. Mark;
ff. 256v-271, Passion according to St. Luke;
ff. 272v-284, Passion according to St. John.
The subjects of the large miniatures are:
f. 13v, Cruciﬁxion
f. 20v, Virgin and Child;
f. 42v, Annunciation;
f. 63v, Visitation’
f. 81v, Annunciation to the Shepherds;
f. 87v, Adoration of the Magi;
f. 93v, Massacre of the Innocents;
f. 99v, Presentation at the Temple;
f. 108v, Flight into Egypt;
f. 115v, Coronation of the Virgin;
f. 126v, Last Judgement;
f. 145v, Trinity;
f. 175v, Funeral Mass;
f. 224v, St. Matthew;
f. 242v, St. Mark;
f. 256v, St. Luke;
f. 272v, St. John.
The artist responsible for these delightful miniatures was one of the Masters of the Gold Scrolls, the leading illuminators in Bruges from around 1415 to 1455, known from their elaborate, ﬁligree-like motifs added to neutral background. Speciﬁcally, he can be identiﬁed as the same artist who painted a Book of Hours in Berlin's Kunstbibliothek (MS Grisebach 4), who is distinguished by his inventive compositions and rich palette.
First coined by F. Winkler in 1925, the Masters of the Gold Scrolls is now thought to refer to a style practiced by a group of artists, not to a single hand, active between about 1415 and 1455 probably in Bruges (see the recent assessment, [Exhibition], Brussels and Paris, 2011, pp. 140-147). Named for the dominant use of gold scrolls on flat, often burnt orange grounds in the backgrounds of many of the miniatures, the style is also characterized by the presentation of figures with oval doll-like faces, the nose, mouth, and eyes summarily treated. They are drawn with supple, unbroken lines and make stereotyped gestures. The palette is bright and the rich prevailing colors are green, blue, red and orange. The style of these artists is formed by a combination of influences. There is a manuscript begun by the Boucicaut Master and finished by the Gold Scrolls Masters, the Hours of Joseph Bonaparte (Paris, BnF, MS. lat. 10538), and at the same time in some of the early production there is also the influence of the “ars nova” or pre-Eyckian artists, such as the Master of the Beaufort Saints. By the end of the lengthy span of production, the artists collaborate with those of the generation of Willem Vrelant, for example on the Montfort Book of Hours (Vienna, ÖNB, Cod. s.n. 12878). The hypothesis that Vrelant actually took over the “workshop” of the Gold Scrolls Master when he arrived in Bruges has been advanced; certainly the refined Vrelant of the 1450s owes much to the Gold Scrolls painters of the 1430s and 1440s; indeed, his style grows directly out of theirs.
The dense borders that adorn nearly every page are often inhabited by birds, animals, and figures, further enhancing the extraordinary richness of the pictorial program. While not all the marginal figures on the pages with full-page miniatures relate to or comment on the subjects they enframe, there are many exceptions. In addition to the donor who appears twice and is described under Provenance above, these include the angels who carry the instruments of the Passion at the Hours of the Passion (f. 144v); the mourner dressed in black reading from a book at the Funeral ((f. 174v), the trumpeting angel at the Last Judgment (f. 125v), and the jubilant, music-making angels at the Coronation of the Virgin (f. 115v). In addition to MS Grisebach 4, one other manuscript is quite close to the present example: Les Enluminures An Intimate Art 12 Books of Hours for 2012 (no. 6, now in a Continental Private Collection). The present example displays denser borders and a greater proliferation of gold leaf both in the miniatures and the margins, but its scale and handling make it a virtual pair with the ex-Enluminures manuscript (and with different, complimentary texts and pictures).
Achten, Gerd. Das christliche Gebetbuch im Mittelalter, Berlin, 1980.
[Exhibition]. Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale, and Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Miniatures flamandes 1404-1482, eds. Bernard Bousmanne and Thierry Delcourt, Brussels and Paris, 2011, pp. 140-142.
Cardon, Bert. “The Illustrations and the Gold Scrolls Group, Typologische Tafeleren uit het Leven van Jesus [Typological scenes from the Life of Christ]: A Manuscript from the Gold Scrolls Group (Bruges, c. 1440) in the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, MS. Morgan 649,” Corpus of Illuminated Manuscripts from the Low Countries, i, ed. M. Smeyers, Leuven, 1985, pp. 119-204.
Dogaer, Georges. Flemish Miniature Painting in the 15th and 16th Centuries, Amsterdam, 1987, pp. 27-31.
Finke, Ulrich, ed. Katalog der mittelalterlichen Handschriften und Einzelblätter in der Kunstbibliothek, Berlin, s.d. [c. 1967].
Smeyers, Maurits. Flemish Miniatures from the 8th to the mid-16th Century. The Medieval World in Parchment, Louvain, Davidsfonds, 1999.
Winkler, Friedrich. Die flämische Buchmalerei des XV.und XVI. Jahrhunderts, Leipzig, 1925 (repr. Amsterdam, 1978), pp. 25–7.
“Gold Scrolls Group” in the Dictionary of Art