Saturday, 22 August 2020

Another Hachette-Lehman-Yale Cutting

I have been compiling a list of the illuminations of Mortimer Brandt recently (they will be the subject of a future blogpost), including the one above, which gave me a reason to investigate its provenance.
It has long been recognised as being extremely similar to a cutting at the Yale University Art Gallery (above) -- they presumably come from the same parent manuscript. One of the things that is never conveyed by images like these is their large size: they are each 20-23 cm (8-9 inches) tall.

Each shows a half-length prophet(?), looking upwards, next to an initial "I"; the palette and design of the initial "I"s are extremely like one another, so the main differences are the colours of the figures' beards and clothes.

The style of the cuttings is related to that of the Master of the Murano Gradual (of which some examples are in this blogpost), but is much more sculptural in appearance:

A number of other initials probably by the same (or a closely-related) illuminator have been published by Ágnes Tóvizi, "Some newly discovered Quattrocento illuminations in Székesfehérvár", Arte cristiana, 96 (2008), pp. 307-12, including this one:

The Yale Art Gallery website records no provenance for its cutting, except that it was donated by Robert Lehman.
From the fact that it has an accession number consecutive with the cuttings discussed in the previous post (each accession number begins "1954.7.[...]"), we can assume that he gave them as part of the same donation, in 1954.

In tracing the provenance of the Mortimer Brandt cutting, I discovered that it was one of a pair that were sold anonymously at Sotheby's, 11 December 1961; the Brandt one was lot 126:
In this description it is recorded that it was previously sold in Paris, 15 December 1934, lot 86; I have not yet been able to consult this catalogue:
Catalogue des dessins, aquarelles, gouaches anciens et modernes, ... , enluminures des 14e et 15e siècles, appartenant à Madame X... ... la vente aura lieu à Paris, Hôtel Drouot, ... 15 décembre 1934
Neither the Brandt cutting nor the preceding lot in the 1961 Sotheby's catalogue are reproduced, but the description of lot 125 makes it sound identical, except for the colours of the prophet's clothes:
We learn from this description that this cutting had been in the same 1934 auction in Paris.

The 1961 Sotheby's cataloguer -- or, perhaps more likely, the person who consigned the two initials for sale -- knew that another cutting from the same manuscript had been sold eight years earlier, at the André Hachette sale in 1953, as lot 58 (although there would be no way to know this from the bland description, and there is no reproduction):
This Hachette cutting must surely be the one now at Yale (the reported dimensions correspond precisely): it was doubtless acquired by Lehman together with the other ex-Hachette cuttings discussed in the previous post.

In summary, we now have:
  • a description of a previously-overlooked sister cutting of the well-known Brandt and Yale cuttings
  • traced the provenance of the Yale cutting to the important Hachette collection
  • traced the provenance of all three cuttings to Paris
The third point makes it likely that all three were together in Paris by the 1930s. I suspect that when I am able to consult a copy of the 1934 catalogue, it will provide more leads to follow: this is therefore one more item for my growing to-do list, for when libraries re-open.

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