Sunday, 25 October 2020


Charles Fairfax Murray (1849–1919)
Self-portrait [Source]

The previous post discussed some cuttings from a French vernacular prose romance, three of which were almost certainly in the 1838 Ottley sale, because they were later in the Holford Album, which was apparently formed entirely of items from the Ottley sale. Another two, apparently from the same parent manuscript, are at the V&A Museum.

In today's post I will look more closely at the provenance of the V&A cuttings, to see what it might tell us, not only about these French cuttings, but also about the other cuttings acquired as part of the same acquisition.

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Cuttings from a Prose Romance in French

In the blogpost two weeks ago I reproduced a miniature from a 14th-century French manuscript, shown above, without saying much about it. It was one of a group of three, sold as lot 2 in the Holford sale, 12 July 1927; here are the other two:

I already knew of two sister-cuttings, and by coincidence, I think I found three more this week.

Saturday, 10 October 2020

The Date of a Worcester Psalter (Magdalen College, MS 100)

I visited Magdalen College Library for the first time a year or two ago, to look at an early 13th-century Psalter [1]. It has been discussed in some detail by Nigel Morgan [2], thanks to its high quality illuminated initials, one of which is shown above.

He attributes it to Worcester, based partly on the iconography of the historiated initials (two of which are closely paralleled in the mid-13th-century Evesham Psalter -- Evesham is less than 15 miles south-east of Worcester), and especially the fact that "the Calendar and Litany are for the use of Benedictine Priory of the Cathedral of Worcester". The date is a trickier issue.

Sunday, 4 October 2020

Felix Joubert (1872-1953) [II]: Collector?

Felix Joubert dressed as a medieval soldier

In last week's blogpost we met Felix Joubert, the amazingly talented restorer and copyist of artworks and artefacts in various media. It is probably fair to also label him as a "forger", as he cannot have been unaware that some of his works were intended to deceive: they were either being sold as originals, or used as substitutes for works that were obtained illicitly.

We started our enquiry from the fact that he (or more likely one of his many employees) made a new frame for an illuminated cutting, probably soon after it was sold in the Holford sale in 1927. What I did not mention last week, is that he was also himself the buyer of several lots at that sale. The official  price-list, printed and distributed to catalogue subscribers after the sale, records that he bought lots 1, 2, 9, 14, 25, and 33, for a (substantial) total of nearly £2,200 [1]:

Before I found out who he was, I always assumed that Joubert was a dealer, buying these lots either on behalf of clients, or for stock. This may indeed be true, but I suspect that he was buying at least some items for his own collection, for two reasons.

Saturday, 26 September 2020

Felix Joubert (1872-1953) [I]: Forger

Felix Joubert (1872-1953) [Source]

Many of my blogposts start as very small questions or observations, which might be easy to ignore, but that become more interesting as I pursue them, often leading in unexpected directions. Today's post is an example of this.

I am attempting to trace the provenance and present whereabouts of as many lots as possible from the Holford sale in 1927. Looking through the Italian volumes of the Illuminated Manuscripts in Cambridge catalogue this week, I found one that I had previously overlooked, now at the Fitzwilliam. Its reported provenance led me to "meet" Felix Joubert for the first time.

Saturday, 19 September 2020

The Antiphonary of Marguerite de Baconel

In a previous post about Brölemann manuscripts, I listed the provenance of the Antiphonary of Marguerite de Bacovel [sic], of which this is a slightly revised version:
  • Written and decorated for Marguerite de Bacovel, of the Carthusian nunnery of Mont-de-Sainte-Marie, Gosnay, Pas-de-Calais [French Wikipedia], apparently started in 1539, and finished in 1542, by Louis de Villechecq, vicar of the convent
  • The Carthusian nunnery of Sainte-Anne-au-Désert, Bruges, of which the first six nuns came from Gosnay [French Wikipedia]: “aen de Chartreusinnen vase Brugge”
  • M. Marguier, antiquities dealer (including molluscs), of Paris, according to:
  • Henry-Auguste Brölemann (1775–1854); by descent to:
  • Mme Etienne Mallet (1853–1929); sold at Sotheby’s, 4–5 May 1926, lot 16.
  • Louisa Dexter Sharpe Metcalf (1866–1959); presented in 1947 to:
  • The John Carter Brown Library, Providence, RI; sold at Sotheby’s, 18 May 1981, lot 12
  • Christie’s, 25 November 1992, lot 17
  • Dr Jörn Günther Antiquariat: offered in his Katalog und Retrospektive (1993), no. XVI.
This week I discovered that the manuscript has been cut up.

Saturday, 12 September 2020

A Rediscovered Border from the Murano Gradual

Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum,
Marlay Cuttings MS It. 18 (detail) [Source]

A couple of years ago, trawling the Fragmentarium website for illuminated manuscripts, I encountered this group of cuttings of medieval borders, attached to a page from a 19th- or early-20th-century album:

Houghton Library, MS pf MS Typ 995 [Source]
The reverse of the sheet has 1916 accession numbers, and de Ricci, Census, p. 1050, records that it was part of a group given the Fogg Art Museum by William Augustus White (d. 1927) in that year. [1] It was later transferred to the Houghton Library.

Ignoring the three smallest pieces in the upper left and middle of the page, my eye was especially caught by the large border that occupies the right-hand side and lower part of this page. It really is large: 40×23cm. according to the online description -- so it is presumably from a huge choirbook. [2]