Saturday, 10 April 2021

Illuminated Leaves and Cuttings From the Collection of Rodolphe Kann

The only complete list of the leaves and cuttings in the collection is:

Édouard Rahir, Catalogue of the Rodolphe Kann Collection, Objets d’art, I: Middle Age and Renaissance (Paris, 1907), nos. 74-87

For this reason, the items are listed below in order of the Rahir catalogue, using its numbering.

The only art-historical study of a large part the collection is:

W. Suida, ‘Italian Miniature Paintings from the Rodolphe Kann Collection’, Art in America: An Illustrated Quarterly, 35 (1947), 19–33

The vast majority were exhibited at the LA County Museum in 1953-54:

Los Angeles: Mediaeval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts: A Loan Exhibition, November 25, 1953–January 9, 1954, Los Angeles County Museum (Los Angeles, 1953)

One miniature and one initial were bought in 1963 by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, where they remain.

Several initials were bought by Denys Sutton in 1963, and sold from his collection at Christie's, 4 June 2008, lots 30-34.

The residue of the collection was bought by Norton Simon in 1965, of which a few were donated elsewhere, a few have been kept; the rest were sold at Sotheby's, 8 July 1974, lots 18-24.

Sunday, 4 April 2021

The Dispersal of the Collection of Rodolphe Kann [III]: The Illuminations

In a post a few week ago we saw that Rodolphe Kann's art collection was inherited by his son, Edouard, and then sold in 1907 to a partnership of Duveen Brothers and Nathan Wildenstein (whose business partner was René Gimpel, discussed here). Rodolphe Kann's illuminated codices may be the subject of a future blogpost (several are now at the Morgan Library), but for now I am interested in the single leaves and cuttings. 

These illuminations were sold en bloc to Arabella Huntington, the fabulously wealthy widow of the railway magnate Collis P. Huntington (d. 1900) and future wife of Collis's nephew, Henry E. Huntington. When she died in 1924, they were inherited by her son, Archer Huntington, who in 1930 sold them back to Duveen Brothers. 

Saturday, 27 March 2021

An Avignon Collective Indulgence of the 1330s?

This week I thought I would expand upon a recent series of tweets on Twitter, as it relates to several of my interests, including copies/forgeries and the examination of physical evidence.

In November last year, Jean-Luc Deuffic tweeted about a forthcoming auction:

He provided a link to the auction site, which shows the full document (though the image resolution is not as high as I would like):

I replied that I thought it had to be a modern copy, and gave a couple of reasons:

Saturday, 13 March 2021

One More Montbaston Bible Historiale Cutting


In previous posts (especially here, but also here, and here) I have discussed cuttings from a 14th-century Bible historiale with miniatures attributed to Richard and Jeanne de Montbaston, who who worked in Paris in the second quarter of the 14th century. At least two or three of them were previously owned by Robert Forrer.

In this post I observed that a significant number of items in the 1921 sale of the collection of Rudolf Busch of Mainz had previously belonged to Forrer. Looking at the Busch catalogue again I noticed the cutting shown above.

Saturday, 6 March 2021

A Byzantine Miniature on a Leaf from the Forrer Collection

A forthcoming Koller sale has a leaf from a copy of the Gospels in Greek, with the above miniature (24 March, lot 503). 

As the catalogue description expains, the parent manuscript is now Chicago, University Library, MS 129 (de Ricci, Census, I, p. 568). It preserves one miniature, and a colophon from which we know that it was written by Nikolas of Edessa in 1133. 

Saturday, 27 February 2021

Catalogues of Old Master Drawings


I have always enjoyed trawling auction catalogues for medieval manuscripts. Sometimes an entire catalogue is dedicated to medieval manuscripts, but more commonly a few medieval items are are listed together with later manuscripts, and/or printed books; sometimes there is only a single medieval leaf or cutting among hundreds of other items. The same applies to medieval manuscripts in the catalogues of rare book dealers; there are very few dealers in any generation who devote entire catalogues to medieval manuscripts.

When you find a medieval item in a catalogue that is mostly filled with other things, one of two situations typically applies. The most common situation is that the item is something very uninteresting, such as a leaf from a mediocre Book of Hours or choirbook. In a tiny minority of cases, however, you can find somethign much more interesting, and because it is hidden among lots of non-medieval material, it is likely to have been overlooked by most other medievalists. It is these discoveries that makes the hours of fruitless page-turning worthwhile.

It was only relatively late -- about four or five years ago -- that I realised how often medieval illuminated leaves and cuttings can also be found in auction and dealer catalogues of Old Master Drawings  -- a type of catalogue that I had previously ignored. This post provides a few examples.

Saturday, 20 February 2021

The Dispersal of the Collection of Rodolphe Kann [II]: Other Perspectives

[The post I had planned to write today has to be postponed until I have some images from a collection in the US, which I had over-optimistically hoped to have received by now. Instead, here is an addendum to last week's post]


One of the books I am reading at present is René Gimpel, Diary of an Art Dealer, translated by by John Rosenberg (London, 1986). René Albert Gimpel (1881-1945) was the son of Clarisse, née Vuitton (of the luggage-making family) and the picture dealer Ernest Gimpel; he married Florence, the youngest sister of Joseph (later Lord) Duveen [Wikipedia]; and was the father of Jean [Wikipedia], the historian and medievalist, perhaps most famous for his book Les Bâtisseurs de cathédrales, 1958, translated as The Cathedral Builders in 1961.

In the previous post I suggested that the sale of the collection of Rodolphe Kann was mainly orchestrated by Nathan Wildenstein and the Duveens, but René's Diary provides a somewhat different perspective.

Saturday, 13 February 2021

The Dispersal of the Collection of Rodolphe Kann

Rodolphe Kann (1845-1905)

In a previous post about Edouard Kann, I alluded to my difficulty in understanding exactly how he was related to various other members of the family, including Maurice and Rodolphe Kann, and how his art collection related to theirs. Since then, I have read a few books about the Duveen family of art dealers, and these have provided me with answers. [1]

Today’s post includes very little about medieval manuscripts per se, but instead provides some background for two forthcoming posts, which will focus on the illuminations of Rodolphe Kann, and I think it also exemplifies the sort of fascinating behind-the-scenes machinations that can be revealed by investigating provenance.

Sunday, 7 February 2021

Illuminated Cuttings Sold in 1821

At the very end of last week's post I suggested that the initial above is the same as one described in 1821 as follows:

"Initial Letter S on one sheet.—In the larger miniature, the Letter is curiously formed by two Dragons, their tails twisted together, and within is represented the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, from the Cathedral Church of Como"

Readers should be sceptical: scores of depictions of Pentecost from illuminated manuscripts inhabit an initial S, because "Spiritus domini replevit" was a standard antiphon for Pentecost, and there are doubtless other initials formed of entwined dragons. So why am I confident of the identification?

Saturday, 30 January 2021

Cuttings Supposedly From the Certosa at Pavia and the Cathedral of Como: A Previously Unnoticed Sale

The famous Celotti auction at Christie's in 1825 consisted largely of very late 15th-century and 16th-century papal illuminations from the sacristy of the Sistine Chapel. The sale has received a lot of attention in recent decades, reaching a cresecendo about a decade ago: in the late 2000s Anne-Marie Eze catalogued the cuttings now at the British Library (and traced sister-cuttings in other collections) and submitted her PhD thesis on Celotti in 2010; in the same year Elena De Laurentiis covered some of the same ground in the exhibition The Lost Manuscripts from the Sistine Chapel. Each of them, and others, have also published articles on various aspects of the Sistine manuscripts and their fates. [1]

It is partly because the Celotti cuttings have already been so well studied that my own focus has been the other great 19th-century sale of illuminated cuttings, that of W.Y. Ottley, in 1838, as regular readers will be well aware. I do, however, think I have one small contribution to make concerning Celotti.

Saturday, 23 January 2021

More ex-Hachette Illuminations at Yale University Art Gallery

As it turned out, there was only one day when Oxford libraries reopened after the Christmas and New Year break, before they had to close again due to new Covid restrictions. Fortunately, I had booked a slot on that day, and was therefore able to work through a list of things that I wanted to check. One of these was Charles Seymour's 1970 catalogue of Yale Art Gallery's early Italian paintings, which I had been unable to consult when writing this blog post.

For the sake of completeness, it seems worth providing a full list of the Lehman illuminations now at Yale, whose Hachette provenance has been unknown since 1954. I can now tabulate the Yale items with their respective numbers in the catalogues by Seymour [1], Pia Palladino [2], and the 1953 Hachette auction [3].

Saturday, 16 January 2021

Contemporary Descriptions of Ottley's Portfolios

Samuel Rogers (1763-1855) [Source]

A little while ago I was very pleased to find a contemporary description of Ottley's portfolio of medieval illuminated manuscript cuttings, and in light of the recent posts about the sheets on which he mounted his cuttings, later bound into an album owned by Hoe and now at Harvard, it seemed worth sharing it now.

The story concerns Samuel Rogers [Wikipedia], one of the most celebrated English poets of his day (until his fame was eclipsed by Wordsworth, Coleridge and Byron), who was able to lead a life of leisure and art-collecting after inheriting a large share of his father's banking business. Of several possible portraits I have selected the one above because it gives a sense of his beady eyes, for reasons that will become apparent below.

Saturday, 9 January 2021

The Hoe Album IV: More Ottley Identifications

In previous posts we have seen that five groups of cuttings from the Hoe Album, now at the Houghton Library, Harvard, can be confidently identified with five lots in the 1838 Ottley sale catalogue.

The first piece of evidence was the presence of a cutting signed by its illuminator, Frate Nebridio. From that firm foundation we found that other lots could be identified by a combination of features: their style, subject-matter, traces of erased pencil lot numbers, and the fact that they had all been bought by Payne.

Using the same kinds evidence, several more Harvard cuttings can be identified as coming from lots in the Ottley sale catalogue, and today we'll look at two of them.

Saturday, 2 January 2021

The Hoe Album, III: Payne


My primary interest in the Hoe Album, until recently, was not Nebridio: it was the border cutting from the Murano Gradual, discussed here. But now that we have established that many or all of Hoe's Nebridio cuttings came from the Ottley sale, we can ask another queston: did Ottley also own the Murano cutting?