|Gulbenkian Museum, M.35|
Before doing the promised review of the new catalogue of the Gulbenkian Museum's illuminated western manuscripts, today I'll continue the theme from last week, by discussing a Gulbenkian cutting from the Holford Collection, shown above, whose pre-Holford provenance is still uncertain. It depicts St Benedict, enthroned, surrounded by three sainted popes and five other saints.
As has been recorded in several previous posts, the vast majority of the illuminated cuttings in the Holford collection were in the 1838 Ottley sale; then bound into an album which was bought by Robert Holford by 1843; and dispersed in 1927 after the death of his son, George.
The subject of last week's post was a large miniature from a Florentine manuscript, that was in the Holford Collection but was not in the 1838 Ottley sale:
The image at the top of this post shows another such instance. According to several usually-reliable sources such as de Ricci and Francis Russell , and the new Gulbenkian catalogue, this was lot 187 in the Ottley sale, where it is described as:
"A Saint, superbly dressed, seated on a Throne"
It is one of a sequence of eight lots all from the same manuscript, correctly attributed to Don Silvestro dei Gherarducci, monk of the Camaldolese monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli, Florence, although the date in the headnote has a typo, as "1530" is an error for "1350":
On the face of it, the identification of the Gulbenkain miniature and lot 187 seems reasonable, because we expect ex-Holford miniatures to have come from the Ottley sale.
There are at least four problems with this identification, however.
First, lot 187 was bought by "Nightingale":
James Edward Nightingale (1817–92), was a private collector, who is not known to have re-sold any of his cuttings to Holford; all the Holford cuttings were bought at the Ottley sale either by "Tindall" or "Lloyd".
Second, the description of lot 187 -- "A Saint, superbly dressed, seated on a Throne" -- is not a very close match for the miniature, as there does not seem to be anything very rmarkable about the saint's dress, and there is no mention of the other figures -- in contrast, for example, to the next lot, lot 188:
"188 Another—A Royal Saint, in a superb dress, half length, with six smaller figures of Prophets"
Lot 188 cannot be the Gulbenkian miniature either, however, because the description precisely corresponds to a series of cuttings now in Stockholm:
Third, the Gulbenkian cutting does not have to be identified with any of the lots in the 1838 sale, because there is proof that Ottley sold at least three cuttings from Santa Maria degli Angeli during his lifetime, more than two decades prior to the posthumous 1838 auction.
One was offered for sale by Ottley's friend William Roscoe, of Liverpool, in 1816: