MS0030 Horae Beatae Mariae Virginis. Rouen usage. Latin ms., N. France, ca. 1475

162 leaves (18.5 x 12 cm.) Pointed Gothic script. 15 lines. Gatherings mostly of 8. Text in Latin and French: Calendar, Hours of the Virgin, Psalms, Litany, Prayers for Souls in Purgatory, Office of the Dead, Passion according to Matthew, Prayers, Gospel lessons, 15 articles of Faith. 13 large miniatures with border decoration. Binding: brown calf with gold-tooled decoration, medallions with the Crucifixion (front) and Annunciation (back) and the name "Françoise Boucher", 17th c.

Of the various centers of illumination in northern France during the late fifteenth century, Rouen was undoubtedly the most productive source for lavishly decorated Books of Hours. Large numbers of these manuscripts betray a homogeneous but elegant standard of production less inclined to originality than conspicuous display. The unrestrained use of mat gold paint, the introduction of stock donor portraits, and a rather precious figure style are typical features of the Rouen school. We can infer that division of labor within workshops was especially common by this time as a means of meeting the inflated demand for prayerbooks. Two sets of donor portraits appear in this manuscript, one included in the original stages of production -- a young woman in prayer in the Pietà with a knight kneeling in the border (135r). Such figures are of a general, anonymous type and indicate a book offered for sale on the open market. The knight's armor was modified to bear the insignia of the arms accompanying the second set of donors added shortly after. The second pair is located beneath the Annunciation (13r). Curiously, the Annunciation itself contains two additional figures (one crowned with a coronet) behind the Virgin and Gabriel. The implications of this odd variation in a standard subject are unclear.

Provenance: The de Melleu family (inscription); Françoise Boucher.

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