Saturday, 11 October 2014

The 1524 "Hildesheim" Prayerbook

Many American and private collections have one or more leaves of an easily-recognisable prayerbook dated 1524 and attributed to Hildesheim.

A Google Images search for hildesheim leaf 1524 produces lots of hits:

This leaf is at the University of Northern Illinois :
Several are currently, or have recently been, on the market:

Most of the owners are aware that the manuscript was intact as recently as its sale by Sotheby's, 23 June 1987, lot 100, where some earlier provenance is given.

In the Sotheby's catalogue it is recorded that "Two of the borders are dated 1524 (ff.61v and 74) and on f.45v an angel holds a shield with the arms of Mansfield. ... The only unusual saint singled out with a miniature in the book is St. Godehard (d.1038), bishop of Hildesheim, a notable centre of artistic activity about 75 miles north-west of the castle of Mansfield, in Prussia, between Magdeburg and Merseburg."

Google Maps suggests that it is actually closer to 90 miles:

The next stages in the provenance are that it was "taken to France (or Belgium perhaps ...) where all the red rubrics were added in French"; "The arms of Adrienne de Louvignies have been added in the mid-sixteenth century on f.1"; and finally, "Nineteenth-century signature of the Comte d'Aspremont-Lynden".

The manuscript was bought at the 1987 auction by "Pairvel" for £60,000 plus 10% commission. It was still intact a decade later when it was offered by the dealers Jörn Günther of Hamburg and Bruce Ferrini of Akron, Ohio, in their catalogue of Recent Acquisitions: Medieval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts (Autumn 1997):
By the following summer, however, the book had been broken, and individual leaves (now attributed to Regensburg) were being offered by Philip J. Pirages, Catalogue 41, item 67:
A leaf is at the top left of this image

Part of Plate 5
One significant detail of the provenance seems, however, to have been overlooked by everyone who has catalogued either the whole manuscript or its leaves.

The volume was published with a detailed description running to three full double-column pages, and a reproduction, by Georg Swarzenski, Die illuminierten Handschriften und Einzelminiaturen des Mittelalters und der Renaissance in Frankfurter Besitz (Frankfurt, 1929), no.151 pp.181–83 and Taf.LXV:

At that time it was "Linelsammlung, L.M. 39".

The Linel Sammlung was formed by the brothers Michael (1830–92) and Albert (1833–1916) Linel, of Frankfurt am Main. It was was acquired by the city of Frankfurt for the Kunstgewerbemuseum by purchase in 1892 and by bequest in 1916. In July 1953, however, some of the manuscripts were de-accessioned, and exchanged for other works of art, with the local dealer W. Heinrich. At least two of the de-accessioned Linel manuscripts were acquired the following year by the Spencer Collection at the New York Public Library from the dealer Helmuth Domizlaff of Munich: Linelsammlung L.M. 38 is now NYPL Spencer 151 and L.M. 8 is now Spencer 152: see The Splendor of the Word, New York Public Library exhibition catalogue (2005), nos.64 and 68.

I do not yet know who owned it between 1953 and the Sotheby's sale in 1987. I also do not know who "Pairvel" was, but s/he was also the purchaser at Sotheby's, 2 Dec. 1986, lot 12  (a fine leaf illuminated by the Master of Guillebert de Mets from the Book of Hours of the Augustinian nunnery of Bethany, near Malines, Belgium) and lot 33 (a late 12th-century German Psalter; van Ess no.25; Phillipps no.411; Kraus Cat.153 no.14; with Sam Fogg in 1998).

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