[NYC, Columbia University, RBML,
Med/Ren Frag. 74; Source]
I have had an interest for a long time in Alphonse Labitte (see, for example, the blog post here). In 1890, he founded the Société des Miniaturistes et Enlumineurs de France, and I assume it was a sort of club, perhaps a bit like the Burlington Fine Arts Club, with a regular meeting-room and its own library (to which, I guess, members were encouraged to make donations): in his various publications he often reproduces manuscripts in the "Bibliothèque ed l'enlumineur". Or perhaps he referred to his own personal library as if it belonged to the club; I have found at least 22 medieval manuscripts that bear his bookplate. But until now, I have not been able to match up any of the manuscripts he reproduced with manuscripts whose present whereabouts I know.
The exception is a miniature now at Columbia University, shown above.
One of my very first blog posts, in December 2010, concerned the 12th-century Walsingham Bible at the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin. Back then, very few images had been published, and I was not allowed to take photos, but the whole manuscript has now been digitized and made available on the Library website.
Some provenance research is "active": you can go looking for answers; some is passive: you just have to wait until you find the necessary evidence.
An example of the latter concerns the small leaf shown above, in a private collection, than I have looked at periodically since 2000.
I have always found it attractive and unusual, but never attempted to identify the text, and certainly never thought about trying to trace its provenance because, part from the style of the script and decoration, there are no clues from which to start. The quire signature in the middle of the lower margin shows that it was the last leaf of the second quire of the parent volume.
But browsing images recently that I had downloaded from the BVMM (Bibliothèque virtuelle des manuscrits médiévaux) website, I realised that I had found the parent volume, and it turns out to contain some significant provenance information.
The Hungerford Hours is well-known both because it is an important example of 14th-century English (probably East Anglian) illumination, and because leaves have appeared on the market with some frequency since the volume was dismembered c.1969. Thus, every few years, cataloguers have had the opportunity to assess the evidence provided by newly resurfaced leaves, and reconsider the parent volume as a whole.
The medieval provenance of the Hungerford Hours relies on two main pieces of evidence:
The first page of the Hours of the Virgin (shown above) has in the lower margin two heraldic arms, presumably of a husband and wife: (i) azure(?), a fess gules, and (ii) argent, a fess sable between three crescents of the same, two and one. The latter heraldry also appears on several other leaves.
In the last quarter of the 15th century the book was doubtless owned by a close friend or family member of Robert Lord Hungerford (d. 1459) (hence the manuscript's familiar name) and his wife Margaret Botreaux (d. 1478), whose obits are added to the calendar (18 May and 7 February).
The manuscript was first brought to general scholarly attention by Janet Backhouse, in a brief 1981 article mainly concerning the calendar and the Hungerford provenance . A much more detailed discussion of the then-known leaves, and of the possible original patron, was published by Michael Michael in 1990 . He noted that the arms argent, a fess sable between three crescents of the same (those on the right of the image above) are like those borne by Sir John de Patteshulle (d. 1349), except that his crescents are recorded as gules (red) instead of sable (black).
This has remained the main study of the manuscript until very recently; Christopher de Hamel and Stephen Cooper (hereafter referred to as de Hamel-Cooper) have now re-examined the provenance and provided an updated list of the known leaves, bringing the number up to forty-six, and they have also proposed a new date for the manuscript and a new patron .
Despite having written in the previous post about the flimsiness of the relationship between the initials by the Monza Master, and the choirbook in Cracow into which some of them as stuck, it is worth looking more closely at the volume as a whole.
In the past few weeks the first volume of the catalogue of the McCarthy collection has been published . The collection includes a series of 19 cuttings from a volume of Lives of Saints illuminated by the so-called Master of Monza, and the catalogue lists 27 more cuttings in other collections, making a total of 46. Two of the 46 should not be on this list, however, and two other ones should be.
I do not usually stray into the realm of Byzantine manuscripts but I make an exception today. Three full-page miniatures of the Evangelists were offered by Les Enluminures, Catalogue 7 (1998), nos. 14a, b, c; the one depicting St Luke is now at The Met Museum (shown above, and online here).