Saturday, 19 January 2019

A Leaf from the Cistercian Abbey of Signy

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.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

The Hungerford Hours


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 [1]. A much more detailed discussion of the then-known leaves, and of the possible original patron, was published by Michael Michael in 1990 [2]. 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 [3].

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Cuttings by the Monza Master [II]


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.