Saturday, 1 August 2020

The Illuminations of John Malcolm (1805–1893), of Poltalloch

As discussed in a previous post, the British Library has the small but important collection of illuminated cuttings and leaves formed by John Malcolm, of Poltalloch, depicted above.

I have begun to prepare a detailed list of the provenances of the items in the collection, but I begin today with some general background.

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Master BF and the Holford Collection

In January this year, Birmingham city Art Museum put images of its illuminated cuttings and leaves online. They provide material for at least two blogposts close to my interests.

As every follower of this blog knows by now: the first auction dedicated solely to illuminated manuscript cuttings was the Celotti sale at Christie's, 26 May 1825; the catalogue was written by William Young Ottley (1771-1836), who bought extensively at the sale; and Ottley's own collection was sold about a decade later 1838.

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Another Leaf of the Missal of Johannes von Giltingen (Augsburg, c. 1485)

OK, despite what I wrote earlier today, here's a very brief post, lacking in detail.

The Missal of Johannes von Giltingen has been published a few times in the past few decades, most recently in the Beyond Words exhibition catalogue, in an entry by James Marrow [online here], in which he cites the known leaves, and ends by saying:
"Considering the pace at which decorated and illustrated leaves from the commission have been recognized in recent decades, one hopes that some of these presumed missing leaves will also be located."

"The Bookhunter on Safari" Blog

I don't have time to write a proper blogpost myself this weekend (or next weekend), so instead I will point readers to the "The Bookhunter on Safari" blog.

It is written by Laurence Worms, owner of Ash Rare Books and founder-organiser of the Book Collecting Seminar at Senate House, University of London, which I have attended whenever possible for the past few years.

A particularly provenance-related post is The Most Successful Book-Huntress in the World, with a follow-up: The Real Clara Millard.

Saturday, 27 June 2020

At Home With Robert Forrer in 1937


By chance I recently came across an article about Robert Forrer (who has been mentioned in several previous posts, e.g. here): Jean R. Debrix, ‘Visages d’Alsace: M. Robert Forrer’, La vie en Alsace (1937), pp. 132–36.

This includes seven photographs of the interior of Forrer's home, on the walls of which hang framed manuscript leaves and cuttings, including the one above, and these two:
Looking closely, I recognised an old friend.

Saturday, 20 June 2020

The Holford Album

I ended the previous blogpost [not including its small addendum] by mentioning the Holford Album of illuminated cuttings, which was loaned by George Lindsay Holford (1860-1926) to an exhibition in London, just a year after the death of his father, the collector, Robert Stayner Holford (1808-1892).

In 1927, after George's own death, two well-illustrated catalogues of the collection appeared in print (as detailed in that previous post) but by this time the album had been taken apart, and the cuttings framed.

What do we know about the origin and later history of the album?

Friday, 19 June 2020

Whitehead-Holford-Malcolm: A Small Addendum

In my previous post I suggested that the initials transcribed by a British Library cataloguer as "J. M. W.", that are inscribed on the back of the miniature shown above, should in fact be read as "T. M. W.", the initials of Thomas Miller Whitehead.

I have now found near-certain confirmation that he did indeed own it.

Saturday, 13 June 2020


I have been working recently on various collections of illuminations, including that of R. S. Holford [Wikipedia], attempting to trace the present whereabouts of each item.

In the course of tracing Holford's miniatures, I was reminded that he lent several to the 1862 International Exhibition [Wikipedia] at the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A). The catalogue is available online through Google Books and
Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Works of Art of the Mediæval, Renaissance, and More Recent Periods, on Loan at the South Kensington Museum, June 1862, edited by J.C. Robinson (revised edition: London, January 1863).
The Holford miniatures were catalogued in detail twice in 1927, each time with numerous reproductions, so we have a very good idea of its contents before dispersal:
Robert Benson, The Holford Collection, Dorchester House, with 200 Illustrations, from the Twelfth to the End of the Nineteenth Century, 2 vols (London: Humphrey Milford).
Sotheby & Co, The Holford Library, Part I: Catalogue of the Magnificent Series of Illuminations on Vellum, Forming Part of the Collections at Dorchester House, Park Lane, the Property of Lt.-Col. Sir George Holford, K.C.V.O. (Deceased) ... 12th of July, 1927.
In principle, therefore, it ought to be easy to identify items from the collection. In practice, however, it is not always so simple.

Saturday, 6 June 2020

A Dispersed Album of Illuminated Cuttings [II]: The Collector(s) Identified


Christopher de Hamel has kindly contacted me about a previous post. He points out that a leaf from a Book of Hours in the Reed collection at Dunedin (shown above) is also from the same album, with the same characteristic handwritten captions.

Saturday, 30 May 2020

The Chichester "Evangelia Festivalia"

[Image by courtesy of Vassar College]
It was in preparation for a tour of CT, MA, and NY libraries in 2014 that I found out that Vassar College has some very interesting unpublished leaves and cuttings, notably the two cuttings from a Missal of Pope Leo X that I described in several blogposts, starting here.

When I got there, one leaf that particularly intrigued me is shown in the image above and below, written in a distinctive, angular, script. It is said to be Flemish but to come from Chichester cathedral (on the south coast of England).

Saturday, 23 May 2020

Yet More Alphabet Soup

A couple of years ago I spent a week at the Lilly Library to photograph all their leaves and cuttings, and have periodically been using those photos in blog posts (e.g. Beaupré Antiphonary leaves, here, and Dominican Lectionary leaves, here).

One discovery that is long overdue to share, is a group of cuttings from a well-known and important Psalter-Hours, among the Library's manuscripts collected by Coella Lindsay Ricketts (d. 1941).

The majority of the cuttings from the mid-13th-century parent manuscript were studied by Judith Oliver thirty-five years ago: "Medieval Alphabet Soup: Reconstruction of a Mosan Psalter-Hours in Philadelphia and Oxford and the Cult of St. Catherine", Gesta, 24 (1985), pp. 129-140 [available (with a subscription) through JSTOR]. One large group she discusses is at the Free Library, Philadelphia, part of the collection of John Frederick Lewis (d. 1932); it comprises dozens of small foliate initials:
several inhabited initials:
and a handful of large historiated initials:

Another group is in a scapbook in the Douce collection at the Bodleian Library, Oxford. Whereas the Philadelphia group have been trimmed close to the edge of the decoration, the Douce ones have not been trimmed. The small foliate initials have been arranged alphabetically: initial "A"s followed by "B"s, "C"s, etc.; here are some of the "D"s:

Because they are not trimmed, this group preserves significant amounts of text, and the larger cuttings also give a good idea of the mise-en-page; we can see from the one on the left here, for example, that the parent volume had 23 lines of text per page:
and from this one we get an idea of one form of marginal decoration:

Another initial from the same manuscirpt turned up about 15 years ago, and became the subject of an article by William M. Voelkle, "More Medieval Alphabet Soup: Another Unique Catherine Initial from the Mosan Psalter-Hours", in Tributes to Lucy Freeman Sandler: Studies in Manuscript Illumination (London, 2007), pp. 63–65; and then in the Arcana sale, part III, at Christie's, 6 July 2011, lot 1:
(detail) [Source]

In addition to the "known" ones, there are three previously unpublished initials at the Lilly Library:
Fortunately, they are mounted so that the text on the back of each can easily be read and identified:

The first shows the Elevation of the Host by a priest performing Mass (a detail of which is at the top of this post): 
The stem of the letter "P" has three subsidiary scenes; at the bottom is a tonsured figure ringing the Sanctus Bell:
In the middle is the congregation, a group of laymen and women:
And at the top is God with souls in heaven:

The text on the back is from the Office of the Dead, so we can be confident that the historiated initial "P" introduces the word "Placebo", with which Vespers of the Office of the Dead begins. The priest is therefore presumably performing a Requiem Mass.

The next Lilly initial, an "S", shows a woman wearing a veil, kneeling before the Virgin and Child:

The text on the back appears to be part of two prayers for the dead. The second is written for a male ("famulo tuo .N."):

The text of the prayers must have been something like this:
Quesumus domine famuli tui cuius
obitus sui diem commemoramus sanctorum
tuorum atque electorum tuorum largire consorti-
um et rorem ei misericordiae tue perhennis infunde.
Deus indulgentiarum  [rubric in French:] Une a(ul)tre.
domine da famulo tuo .N. cuius anni-
verfarium depositionis diem
commemoramus refrigerii sedem quietis
beatitudinem et luminis claritatem. P(er Christum).
 Although it is a bit hard to see, the masculine Latin forms on the top line ("famuli tui") have superscript letters "e" above their final letters, to allow the reader easy conversion into feminine forms ("famule tue"):

But it is not clear to me exactly what is depicted in the initial, or what text it introduced. It seems that the kneeling woman (nun?) is giving the white bird (representing her soul?) to Christ.
If the prayers for the dead on the reverse come from the end of the Office of the Dead, as seems likely, then they are presumbly on the recto, and this initial, on the verso, introduced whatever followed.

The last Lilly initial shows a king directing three men to be burned in a fire:
We might assume that this depicts  the popular story of the Three Hebrews in the Fiery Furnace [Wikipedia], but several details suggest otherwise.

First, the three man have closed eyes, indicating that they are dead. Second, the king seems to be accompanied by a queen, who extends her hand in the standard gesture of blessing. Third, although at first sight the initial appears to be an initial "O", a closer look shows that there is the tail of a "Q" to the lower left, and the text on the back of the cutting is from Psalm 50; the initial "Q" must therefore be the beginning of Psalm 51 (Quid gloriaris in malitia) and be on the verso. Psalm 51 is one of the normal major divisions of the psalms in medieval Psalters, and we know from Judith Oliver's work that the iconography of the parent volume placed a special emphasis on scenes involving the virgin queen, St Catherine of Alexandria. (In her 1985 article Oliver noted that the Psalm 51 initial was as yet unaccounted for, and identified the following major psalter initial, Psalm 68, as depicting St Catherine's torture on the wheel). It therefore seems certain that the initial depicts the story from Catherine's life in which Emperor Maxentius summoned fifty wise men to dispute with her about her Christian beliefs: when they failed to outsmart her, Maxentius had them thrown into a fire while Catherine assured them of the rewards of martyrdom.

The three Lilly cuttings discussed here are not among the 100 highlights of the  collection in Christopher de Hamel, Gilding the Lilly: A Hundred Medieval and Illuminated Manuscripts in the Lilly Library (Bloomington, 2010), and nor, as far as I can see, are they included in the list of Ricketts manuscripts published by de Ricci in his Census, and there did not seem to be any information about their provenance on the Library's index cards. The parent manuscript must have been cut up during the lifetime of Francis Douce (d. 1834) [Wikipedia], but it seems that a large tranche re-surfaced on the market in the first decades of the 20th century, perhaps with a London dealer such as Tregaskis, from whom John Frederick Lewis (d.1932) of Philadelphia, and Coella Lindsay Ricketts (d.1941) of Chicago, are known to have bought illuminations.

Saturday, 16 May 2020

The Raphael Stora Archive II:

In a previous post I looked at two illuminated leaves once owned by the dealer Raphael Stora; today I briefly mention two more.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

A Lavishly Illuminated 13th-Century Psalter-Hours Made for a Nun [IV]


In a post almost exactly five years ago, I mentioned that a well-known Psalter-Hours seems to have been owned by a nun, as one of the prayers mentions "our abbess".

Thanks to Beatrice Alai, I have recently become aware of a few online images of illuminated leaves and cuttings at the Graphische Sammlung, Stuttgart. Among them are a leaf and a bifolium from the Psalter-Hours, shown above.

Saturday, 2 May 2020

Missing Initials from the Murano Gradual

The Master of the Murano Gradual is believed, on strong evidence, to have worked for one or both of the Camaldolese houses on the islands immediately adjacent to Venice, at some point between about 1420 and 1450. He contributed to at least two choirbooks: one survives largely intact in Berlin, and one that was cut up before 1838, when a series of cuttings and a leaf appeared in the sale of William Young Ottley.

For various reasons they are of great art-historical interest, and have generated a sizeable bibliography; a recent article observes that 'The enigma and splendor of this anonymous master have captivated art historians and collectors for decades' [1]. But my approach here, of course, focuses on what a study of provenance might contribute to the debate.

Saturday, 25 April 2020

Another Look at the "Strozzi"-Jarman Book of Hours

Winged skeleton holding a scythe

In a previous post about illuminated leaves salvaged from a Book of Hours after the now-famous flood in 1846 that damaged manuscripts in the collection of John Boykett Jarman, I mistakenly conflated two leaves apparently from the same manuscript: one with a full-page miniature of the Crucifixion, and one with a historiated initial of the Crucifixion. I highlighted my error in an addendum, and noted that I would have to re-think and revise that blog-post.

I think I have now found a crucial new piece of evidence that allows the confusion to be sorted out.

I will summarise the "state of the question" and the problem at issue, followed by a possible solution.

Saturday, 18 April 2020

A Recently Dismembered Copy of Giordano Ruffo, De Medicina Equorum [I]

I recently found a very interesting blogpost written in 2014 by David Whitesell, of the University of Virginia, describing the acquisition of six leaves of a copy of Giordano Ruffo's treatise about horse-health. It includes this:
"Here is what we know about their provenance. In December 2011, 21 leaves from an imperfect copy of Ruffo’s manuscript were offered at a Sotheby’s auction in London. The leaves went unsold but were bought privately following the auction. This past fall [i.e. in 2013] we learned of the manuscript when an American bookseller’s catalog, in which eight of the leaves were offered, arrived in the mail. We promptly placed an order for all eight leaves, but two had already been sold. The bookseller subsequently reported that he had originally acquired 11 of the 21 leaves, three of which were sold to two different American research libraries, and two to private collectors in the U.S. and Europe, before U.Va. bought the remaining six. Eleven leaves, five new owners on two continents, with ten leaves still unaccounted for."
Most of the "unaccounted for" leaves were identified in the comments below the post, so we know the whereabouts of almost all of them, as follows:

Saturday, 11 April 2020

A Collector's Mark Re-Interpreted

J. Paul Getty Museum, MS 38 [Source]
Since learning of the excellent catalogue of the Italian illuminated manuscript leaves and cuttings at the Berlin Kupferstichkabinett, I have been in contact with its author, Beatrice Alai, about various cuttings, collectors, and collections. It is thanks to her that I very recently considered a  puzzle which turns out to have an unexpected and satisfying conclusion.

Saturday, 4 April 2020

The Raphael Stora Archive I:
A Missing Leaf of a Regensburg Antiphonary

In a previous post about a dismembered illuminated Antiphonary from Regensburg, I showed that it had been auctioned intact in New York in 1945, and broken up by 1953 when four leaves, the property of the New York dealer Raphael Stora, were exhibited in the 1953-54 exhibition [discussed in this post] in Los Angeles. The detail above is from one of these four leaves.

From the 1945 auction catalogue we know that the manuscript had 20 historiated initials, of which I was able to trace the present whereabouts of most of them (or else photographs) in the non-French volume of the catalogue of the McCarthy Collection. One of the few leaves that eluded me -- and whose whereabouts I still do not know -- was described in the 1945 catalogue as: "Lycia and Saint Agatha, the Virgin martyr":
The strange spelling of "Lycia" appears to be a typo for "Lucia" (especially since "y" and "u" are next to each other on a typewriter keyboard).

This leaf is known to have belonged to the French-born art historian and curator of American collections, Philippe Verdier (1912-1993) [1]: the original sales invoice dated 8 July 1953 survives in the Stora Archive at the Getty Center, and the leaf was apparently still in Verdier's possession shortly before the 1987 Regensburger Buchmalerei exhibition, in the catalogue of which he is thanked [2].

Saturday, 28 March 2020

A Recently Dismembered Illuminated Bible, Probably from Oxford

I have become aware in the last few years of leaves of a 13th-century Bible, that have appeared on the market in the past decade. I had been cursorily filing images from online auctions, but only recently did I have a reason to look into it more closely.

Saturday, 21 March 2020

A Dispersed Album of Illuminated Cuttings

Boston Public Library, MS pb Med. 174
An exchange on Twitter this week caused me to look again at the online images of single leaves at cuttings at the Boston Public Library, and it reminded me that they have the item shown above: a cutting of an illuminated manuscript on parchment, inset into a paper mount, which was presumably either fol. 38 in a bound volume or no. 38 in a portfolio of loose leaves. The number appears in the upper right corner:

Sunday, 15 March 2020

The Macclesfield Copy of the Works of Lewis Caerleon

On Friday, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, and The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, issued a Press Release announcing that they have has placed a temporary export bar on a manuscript of astronomical works by Lewis of Caerleon (d. c. 1500).

I catalogued it for the owner in 2009, and revised my description for an exhibition in 2014. It was thanks to that work that I was able to recognise another Lewis Caerleon manuscript at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, about which I blogged in 2016.

The volume seems to have been written under the author's direct supervision, and he writes his name in several places. I reproduced a few images of Lewis's signature in the 2016 blog, but here I will show the evidence for the other stages in its provenance.

Saturday, 7 March 2020

A Glimpse of Bathsheba Bathing

I decided to fill some free time one evening recently by browsing old art-sale catalogues at the Warburg Institute (arguably the best humanities library in London). Usually when I browse old catalogues I concentrate on auction catalogues of medieval manuscripts, but illuminated manuscripts occasionally appear in catalogues of Old Master drawings (the subject of a future blogpost) and of more general art collections.

The front cover of one such is shown above; the title-page provides more information:

Sunday, 1 March 2020

Provenance Details Depicted in Manuscripts Depicted in Paintings

I've been in Belgium most of the week, to see the Van Eyck exhibition in Ghent, so have not had time to write the usual blogpost.  Apart from the exhibition, one of the most interesting things I saw was an exceptionally detailed depiction of two Books of Hours in this pair of early 16th-century Flemish portraits, of Lievin van Pottelsberghe (d. 1531) and his wife Livina van Steelant (d. 1563):
The books are painted with such detail that one can see their heraldry and read their mottos.

Saturday, 22 February 2020

An Exhibition in Richmond, Virginia, in 1943


A few years ago I was trying to find out what leaves and cuttings are in Virginia, so I contacted the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts about an exhibition catalogue that seemed not to be available in any London library:
The archivist Courtney Yevich Tkacz very kindly sent me a scan of it. (It has since been put online here). Looking at it again this week, I noticed several connections with recent blogs.

Sunday, 16 February 2020

A Gradual at Central St Martin's, From the Collection of Howel Wills

A year or two ago, I discovered that Central St Martins, the London college of art and design [Wikipedia], has a collection of medieval illuminated manuscript leaves and cuttings, including quite a number of interest to me. I'll try to write about some of them on another occasion, but today I will describe one of their three bound codices: a characteristically large late medieval Italian choirbook.

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Illuminated Manuscripts from the Collection of Siegfried Laemmle (1863-1953)

Siegfried Laemmle
This week's blog has lots of gaps in it -- I am hoping that readers can help fill some of them.

Having worked in the Department of Manuscripts at the J. Paul Getty Museum for two years in the early 1990s, I naturally have an interest in medieval manuscripts in LA (and California more generally). But it was only fairly recently that I was able to obtain a copy of a fairly scarce catalogue of an exhibition held in 1953-54:

Loans came from "the usual suspects", including the Walters, the Morgan, and the Houghton; and from some well-known dealers and collectors, such as Duveen Brothers, H.P. Kraus, Wildenstein and Company, and Philip Hofer; but also from a small number of much less well-known dealers and collectors, such as Victor Spark, Piero Tozzi, Siegfried Laemmle -- a successful Munich art dealer who fled to the US from Germany in 1938 -- and his son Walter.