Saturday, 5 March 2016

A Psalter Leaf at Harvard

When writing the previous post about the leaves and cuttings sold by Gustav Nebehay in 1926, I concentrated on the catalogue entries that are accompanied by reproductions. I also looked through the descriptions that do not have plates, however, and felt sure I recognised lot 120, but could not immediately remember where I knew it from:
"120   Baptism of Christ. An interesting and early miniature of John Baptising Christ (140mm. by 95mm.). On the left is John the Baptist ... In the centre the figure of Christ in Jordan ... On the right an attendant angel with towel. On the back of the miniature is a large and finely designed initial B in burnished gold on a blue ground ... Germany, XIII Cent."
Soon after posting the blog I remembered where I had seen it: it is now Houghton Library, MS Typ 997 (described here):

recto [Source]
verso [Source]
I have not seen the original, but there are reproductions in in article in a volume to which I also contributed; see Gude Suckale-Redlefsen: “A Leaf of the Baptism of Christ and its Place in Thirteenth-Century Bavarian Psalter Illumination,” Harvard Library Bulletin, 21.2 (Piecing Together the Picture: Fragments of German and Netherlandish Manuscripts in Houghton Library, edited by Jeffrey F. Hamburger) (2010), pp.37-44. In this, Suckale-Redlefsen revisits an idea first proposed by Hanns Swarzenski, that the leaf is closely related to a series of single leaves at the Morgan Library, MS M.275.

The comparison seems convincing to me; compare, for example, the figure of the angel Gabriel in each (the former here reversed):
Allowing for the very different quality of these photos, the manner of depicting the faces, haloes, draperies, wings, and feet, are all closely comparable. The Gabriel figure on the right, from the Morgan manuscript, really only differs in the treatment of the hair (but this is similar to Christ's in the Houghton miniature) and more significantly in the swag of flying drapery at about the level of his knees. The faces are very similar in their modelling and rosy red cheeks, but not identical in their overall shape.

In fact, I had seen this miniature somewhere else as well; as Suckale-Redlefsen notes, it was in Boerner's catalogue for 28 November 1912, as lot 15:

The catalogue description:
is possibly the source of the attribution written along the right-hand edge of the verso (or vice versa), here rotated:
"Sachs.-Thuringiche [sic] Malschule Anfang des XIII Jahrhund[ert]s"
Suckale-Redlefsen tells us that in the 1912 auction the leaf was bought by Edgar Huidekoper Wells (1875-1938).
"Edgar Huidekoper Wells, '97, was a long-time friend of the Harvard College Library and an active and loyal alumnus. He held various positions at Harvard, including instructor in English (1902-1906); curator of modern English literature in the library (1903-1913); and assistant dean (1905-1907). In the first World War he served first in the American Red Cross and then as an army officer attached to the U.S. Embassy in London. After the war he was instrumental in establishing the Lionel DeJersey Harvard fund, which added many rare books to the Library, and the Harvard Fellowship at Trinity College, Cambridge. He also operated Edgar H. Wells and Company, a book shop in New York City, from 1921 to 1938. For many years until his death in 1938 he was one of the most respected members of the rare book trade, and the friend and correspondents of many well known collectors, dealers, and bibliographers." [source]
It was acquired by George A. Dyer for the Fogg Art Museum (1927.21) and transferred to Houghton Library in 1990.



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