Saturday 27 October 2018

Cuttings From "The Property of a Gentleman" in 1923 [II]

In a previous post I connected a 1923 auction catalogue with some cuttings at the Free Library Philadelphia, and suggested that I might try to compile a complete list at some later date.

I have now been given the impetus to try to compile such a list by two things: first by the fact that I have found a few more of these cuttings in other collections, and second, by the fact that François Avril has contacted me to say that he has discovered the origin of many of these cuttings; I hope he will publish his findings in due course.

It is clear that the cuttings belong to at least two different groups, are of two types, and these correspond to two main styles (although there are in fact several styles). One stylistically homogeneous group are cut from borders, and are thus blank on their reverse; they occasionally preserve the corner of the unpainted text area, allowing us to deduce whether they come from the lower left, or lower right, corner of the leaf:
In this case we can also see that the lower right corner is more creased and worn, thus this was the recto (where a person touches the leaf to turn to the next opening).

They presumably come from leaves with borders of this general type, with a series of scenes in compartments:

The rest are historiated initials, and thus have text and/or music on their reverse. (The Free Library, to its great credit, is one of the few institutions that has routinely digitized the backs of its leaves and cuttings, even when they are "blank" -- it is a very rare that the back of a manuscript is truly blank -- but my praise for them is tempered, however, by the discovery that as recently as 2002 they re-mounted many items and discarded the old mounts, even when the mounts preserved unique provenance information, such as inscriptions and clippings from old sale catalogues).

The script is fairly distinctive, which may allow further cuttings from this group to be identified in due course; on the backs of one group of initials is this style of script; note the very pronounced, but very thin, upstroke rising from the bottom of many minims:
also the little serif rising from the bowl of the letter a, and the triangular 'shoulder' half-way up ascenders such as the letter l, sometimes left empty and sometimes filled-in:

If we limit ourselves to those lots bought by Rosenbach in the 1923 auction, we can identify many of those now at the Free Library:
Lot 693
"Two fine Illuminated Letters. An Initial C, with two bishops, St. Nicholas and St. Julian, in attitudes of benediction, with pastoral staves, and between them three children in a tub, 3¾ in., by 3¾ in.; and an Initial A – The Good Shepherd with crook, chalice and cloak, leading a flock of sheep, 3¾ in. by 4¼ in.  (2)"
"An Illumination – St. John and the Virgin, 4¼ in. by 2½ in.; and another, in gold and blue, with The Virgin and Child, under an archway, supported by angels, 4¼ in. by 2¾ in.  (2)"
Not identified, but the first is possibly this:
"Two fine illuminations. St Michael in golden armour, with other angels, casting devils out of Heaven, 4¾ in. by 2½ in.; and another with two red and green devils upsetting a boat and throwing a monk into the water, 4⅝ in. by 2⅝ in. (2)"
"A fine Initial B, with the Trinity in glory, 3¼ in. by 3½ in.; and an Initial N, with St. Helena discovering the True Cross (2)"

This Trinity is in a style we have not encountered before; it may perhaps not be the cutting described in the 1923 catalogue.
"An Illumination of Christ disputing in the Temple, 3 in. by 2¾ in.; and another of Christ working as a carpenter, 3 in. by 2⅔ in.  (2)"
"A fine Initial U, of The Miraculous Draught of Fishes, 3⅝ in. by 3⅞ in.; and an Illumination of St. Michael holding the Scales of Good and Evil Souls, 4¾ in. by 2⅝ in. (2)"
"An Initial C, with Saints John and Peter discovering the open sepulchre, 3½ in. by 3½ in.; and an Initial E, on a burnished gold ground, 2¾ in. by 3½ in."
Second item not identified / not identifiable.
"A Miniature Illumination of St. Stephen with wild beasts, 3⅛ in. by 1¾ in.; and another with St. John baptising a convert who is supported in the water by two angels, 4¼ in. by 2¾ in.  (2)"
Note that "St John" in the second image appears to be female. Monsieur Avril has an alternate interpretation of the iconography of this and other cuttings.
"A Chapter Heading: The Transfiguration, 4 in. by 4⅜ in.; and another of St. Thomas, 3½ in. by 3½ in.  (2)"
"St. Thomas" perhaps refers to Doubting Thomas:
"An illumination – A Group of Saints, including St. Lawrence, St. Stephen, St. Denis and St. Christopher, 5 in. by 2½ in.; another – A Group of Apostles, 3¾ in. by 2⅜ in.; and another with St. Peter, 3 in. by 2¼ in. (3)"
Third item not identified.
"A very fine Initial C, showing seven monks in black robes receiving the blessing of St. Benedict; in the background are seen cardinals, and a papal tiara lies at the Saint’s foot; on a scroll is written “ORA. PATER. PRO FILIIS. TUIS. ALBERTINENSIBS. ET. PRO. SCRIPTORE. HORUM. VOLUMINUM.” On two of the monks’ robes, their names are written in gold, 7¾ in. by 6¼ in."
Note that this initial is in the same style as the next one.
"A beautiful Initial C, showing the Ascension of the Virgin, who is support by angels, 7½ in by 6¼ in."
"A fine initial L, with Christ preaching to the Multitude, and the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes, 6¼ in. by 6¾ in."

Here both the style of the initial, and of the script and decoration on the back, are different from those seen before.
"A fine Initial B [sic], with Christ arising from the Tomb, whilst the soldiers, in golden armour, sleep, 7½ in. by 7¼ in."
"An Initial B, in pink and white on gold, in the centre of which St. Michael is slaying a highly coloured dragon, 7¾ in. by 6½ in."
"Four similar Borders of fine bold design  (4)"
[a preceding lot is described as “beautiful Illuminated Borders on vellum of various sizes, painted with flowers, fruit and leaves in free-hand designs of brilliant colours and gold”]
Not identified / not identifiable.
"An Illumination of vellum, in gold and brilliant red, blue and green – St. Anthony, 4 in by 5 in.; another of St. Paul and an angel, 4½ in by 3 in.; and another of St. Paul preaching, 4 in by 3 in.; the latter with interesting costume figures  (3)"
First item not identified.

"An Illumination of Christ appearing to the Disciples, 3½ in. by 2¼ in.; another of a bishop at prayer, 3¾ in. by 2½ in.; and another of a Group of Prelates and Saints, 4¾ in by 3 in.  (3)"
First item not identified.

"Two Initial letters (A and B), in blue and gold on entwined background of blue and red lines; two others, similar, in red and blue; and an E and M, in sepia, red and blue, average size, 4 in. by 3 in.  (6)"
"Six Initial Letters, in black on various coloured grounds, each with a grotesque face n profile, average size, 3½ in by 3 in.  (6)"
"Seven Initial Letters of various designs, but each with the letter in black, one with a dragon, another with a gridiron, and one with a chalice etc., average size, 3½ in by 3 in.  (7)"
"Twelve Initial Letters of most interesting types, illuminated in brilliant colours  (12)"
The above four lots are not identified, and may not be identifiable.

One more lot was bought at the 1923 auction by Rosenbach:
"A fine early Illumination in colours and brilliant gold, the drawing is divided into four compartments, which depict the Massacre of the Innocents, The Flight into Egypt (showing an interesting wayside shrine), The Presentation in the Temple, and Christ and the Virgin before the Elders, 7¼ in. by 5 ⅜ in.  English 14th Cent."
This is clearly very different from all the others, both in its format and its style (it is described as "English 14th Cent."; it must be this miniature, which was resold at Sotheby's, 14 July 1981, lot 26:

In addition to the cuttings at the Free Library, I have found a few others from the 1923 auction:
"A fine Illumination of an Initial C, with battlemented building, with a man in bed in the upper storey, and retainers entering by lower doors with baskets of food, 3½ in. by 4¼ in.; and another Initial C, with God the Father holding the crucified Son, 3¾ in. by 4⅛ in.  (2)"

These two cuttings, now at the V&A Museum, were recorded by the auctioneer as being acquired by [the] “Nation”:

Other lots acquired by “Nation” are these:
"Three Illuminations. Christ appearing to the Apostles, 4 in. by 2½ in.; another of The Last Supper, 4½ in. by 1⅝ in.; and an Initial C, with the Virgin and Child in Glory, 2⅝ in by 3⅛ in.  (3)"
"An Initial A, depicting the Last Supper, 3½ in. by 3¾ in.; and an initial C, with God The Father holding the Crucified Son, 5⅝ in by 3¾ in.  (2)"
"An Illumination depicting the Adventure of Jonah, 3½ in. by 4 in.; and an Initial B, on a burnished gold ground, 3⅛ in. by 3¼ in.  (2)"
Strangely, it has not been possible to identify any of these among the leaves and cuttings now at the V&A, although it is likely that "Christ appearing to the Apostles", which must be tall and narrow at "4 in. by 2½ in.", is this border cutting of the Supper at Emmaus:

Also bought by “Nation” were two lots of borders:
"Six similar borders, one with a dragon, and other designs  (6)"
"Eight Borders of various interesting types  (8)"
It might seem that identifying these would be an impossible task, but in fact it is easy: the following cuttings have acquisition numbers consecutive with the three V&A cuttings identified above, and some of them are mounted on pieces of paper that still retain their 1923 lot numbers:

This details shows part of "Lot 721", one of "6" items in the lot, described in the catalogue as "with a dragon":

Another cutting from the same manuscript as the 1923 group of border cuttings can be recognised by its style and format; it was offered for sale at Sotheby’s, 17 December 1991, lot 39:

I do not know their present whereabouts, but two more initials are reproduced in the 1923 catalogue; perhaps a reader will recognise them:


We have seen that not all the items bought at the 1923 by Rosenbach are at the Free Library, for which there are several possible explanations. Perhaps Rosenbach never offered them to Lewis; perhaps they were bought by Lewis and are now at the Free Library, but are in different styles and thus cannot so easily be recognised as belonging to the same group; or perhaps they were bought by Lewis and then disposed of during his lifetime, and were thus not given to the Free Library by his widow.

There are two further complications. There are cuttings at the V&A that are clearly from the same series as those in the 1923 auction, and they have acquisition numbers consecutive with items definitely bought at the 1923 sale, but they cannot be recognised in the 1923 auction catalogue descriptions. Here is one example:
I can only assume that the cataloguer made a mistake and wrote "Christ appearing to the Apostles" (lot 697) but intended to write "Christ appearing to the Virgin" -- but I have already proposed above that this description refers to the Supper at Emmaus.

Similarly, there are a number of cuttings at the Free Library, clearly from the same series as other historiated initials in a very distinctive style, that cannot be identified in the 1923 catalogue, such as these:

All of these have on their back a pencil price-code of Maggs Bros.; in this case it is "hoio" above the letter a:
This shows that not all of the Free Library cuttings derive from Rosenbach and the 1923 auction: there must have been another tranche of cuttings from the same parent volumes, some of which came onto the market via Maggs.

One of the historiated initials that was apparently not in the 1923 auction may provide a clue to the origin of the this group of cuttings: it shows a Benedictine monk kneeling before St Margaret, perhaps the titular saint of his monastery?

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