Saturday 11 December 2021

John Mathew Gutch (1776-1861) and the Choirbooks of the Venetian Lagoon


John Mathew Gutch (1776-1861), shown above, is not known as a collector of illuminated manuscripts, although his "valuable and extensive library" is mentioned in his obituary [1], and his Wikipedia page

To students of Italian illumination he is, however, the former owner of an album (BL, Add. MS. 22310) containing nine full leaves from a Venetian Antiphonary attributed to the Master of the Donato Commission (here), and 23 cuttings.

Saturday 4 December 2021

More Leaves from the Hastière Bible

I recently bought some books about Bohemian illuminated manuscripts, and illuminated cuttings in Bohemian collections, including one about the illuminated leaves, cuttings, and fragments at the National Gallery in Prague, shown above [1]. A few items caught my eye in particular.

Sunday 28 November 2021

Celotti or Ottley? The Source of the Lomax-Wade Collection [II]

Before accepting any argument as true, even -- or especially -- if my initial inclination is to believe it, my first reaction is always to consider if the opposite argument is tenable. One way of doing this is to think about what sort of evidence would be required to either (i) disprove the argument, or (ii) prove the opposite argument, and then look to see if either sort of evidence exists. [1]

In the present case [discussed in the preceding two blogposts], if we were to take as our working hypothesis that the Lomax-Wade collection consisted exclusively and entirely of cuttings bought by Webster at the Celotti sale (rather than acquisitions from elsewhere, such as the Ottley sale), I can envisage three main ways of disproving this hypothesis. 

One is to find a Celotti-Webster item that was definitely not in the Lomax-Wade collection, but proving a negative is often impossible, and in this case there are too many ambiguous descriptions in both catalogues to state with certainty that an item in former was not in the latter. A second approach would be to identify one or more items in the Lomax-Wade collections that were definitely not in the Celotti sale; but this would be very difficult to prove for similar reasons. A third, much easier approach, which avoids the problem that we do not know the subjects depicted in all the initials in the Celotti sale, is to see whether the number of items bought by Webster at the Celotti sale matches the number in the Lomax-Wade collection.

Saturday 13 November 2021

Celotti or Ottley? The Source of the Lomax-Wade Collection [I]

Lomax-Wade collection, fol. 17

We saw last week that there are several reasons to believe that the collection of cuttings bound in 1838 into a copy of Henry Shaw, Illuminated Ornaments Selected from Manuscripts of the Middle Ages (1833), and later owned by John Lomax and W.O. Wade, may have been bought at the 1838 Ottley sale. But I also noted that Anne-Marie Eze had potentially traced some of the cuttings to the 1825 Celotti sale, so we should test these two competing hypotheses.

We also saw that strong support for Anne-Marie’s position comes from the fact that the initial depicting Dominic Loricatus scourging himself – a very rare subject – can potentially be identified in the Celotti catalogue, but not in the Ottley catalogue. She found several other potential matches, and while they are not individually conclusive they are collectively compelling.

Saturday 6 November 2021

The Provenance of a Lombard Cutting [II]: The Lomax-Wade Collection

Last week we saw how an illuminated cutting from Lombardy could be traced to a Collectors' Corner catalogue issued in Spring 1961 by the Folio Society. As is so often the case, if we can establish the recent history of a medieval manuscript, this enables us to trace its provenance back much further.

The entry of our cutting (it was item 99e) in the 1961 catalogue appeared under this general heading:

This states that the whole group 
"are from service books illuminated on vellum for the Olivetan Order and which belonged to the Monastery of St. Victor at Milan. [...] The immediate provenance is the great Dyson Perrins Collection".

Saturday 30 October 2021

The Provenance of a Lombard Cutting [I]



A few weeks ago the two items above were sold as a single lot at a provincial English auction, with an estimate of £80-120. The portrait miniature on the right was catalogued as "an over-painted print of a duckling" (I assume "duckling" must be some sort of spellcheck error for "duke"!). The illuminated cutting on the left was described as "A small framed and glazed illuminated manuscript extract". Together they cost the buyer £280 plus fees.

Saturday 16 October 2021

Otto Ege's Armenian Lectionary Dated "1121"


I cannot read languages written in non-Latin alphabets, such as Hebrew, Greek, Syriac, and Armenian, so I will only attempt to catalogue them if I have help from a specialist. I do, however, enounter them periodically. Ethiopian codices are fairly popular with private collectors, for example, because a complete codex (usually 19th-century, but still medieval in character) can be bought for the price of a single medieval Western illuminated leaf, and because the wood boards of the bindings are often not covered, leaving the spine and sewing structure clearly visible: they therefore make very good teaching tools.

I encounter with some frequency (in person or online) leaves from an Armenian Lectionary dispersed by Otto Ege (as shown above). Leaves of it were not included in his famous portfolio of Fifty Original Leaves, but they were in three of his earlier portfolios: Original Leaves from Famous Bibles: Nine centuries, 1121 A.D. - 1935 A.D., 'Series A' issued in 1936, in an edition of 200, and 'Series B' issued in 1938, in an edition of 100; and Fifteen Original Oriental Leaves of Six Centuries issued in [1952] in an edition of 40 copies [1]. If you meet with a leaf of an Armenian manuscript on paper, written in two columns of 33 lines, there is a good chance that it comes from this manuscipt.

Saturday 9 October 2021

A Contemporary Opinion of the Ottley Collection of Illuminations

In the English journal The Athenæum, founded in 1828 [Wikipedia], is a contemporary account of the  items offered for sale in the 1838 Ottley auction of illuminated cuttings.

Saturday 2 October 2021

Manuscripts Written at Rome in 1465, Now at the V&A and Houghton [II]

Before moving on the the 20th-century provenance of the manuscript(s) discussed in the previous post, I need to add an important piece of the 19th-century provenance that I failed to include last week.

Howel Wills (1854-1901) was a collector in whom I've had an interest since the 1990s, when I catalogued some of his manuscripts now at the Bodleian. On my old provenance webpages, made in the early 2000s, I posted some basic biographical information and some images to show how his books can be recognised. More recently, I have occasionally had the chance to mention him in blogposts, such as here. [1]

It turns out that he was the owner of the 1465 manuscript (when it was still bound as a single volume) and it was included in his sale at Sotheby's, 11 July 1894, lot 1194:

[Click to enlarge]
As can be seen from the annotation in this image, the manuscript was bought by Quaritch for £20, and I suspect it was offered for sale in their Rough List no. 144: A rough list of choice and valuable books...[f]rom the library of Howel Wills, Esq., of Florence (August 1894), but I have not yet had a chance to verify this.

Sunday 26 September 2021

Manuscripts Written at Rome in 1465, Now at the V&A and Houghton [I]


Houghton Library, MS Typ 496 [Source]

A reader sent me an enquiry about a manuscript a few weeks ago, that sent me off on a provenance-hunting trail with a very satisfactory result. The image above shows the last page of the manuscript, a copy of Andrea Domenico Fiocchi (alias Fenestella), De Romanorum Magistratibus, which is at the Houghton Library, and this is a detail, showing that the scribe dated its completion in 1465:

"die .v. novembr. 1465"

Saturday 28 August 2021

Illuminated Cuttings Sold in 1821 [II]: The Consignor

Six months ago I speculated about the identity of the owner of a group of Italian illuminated cuttings sold at a previously-unremarked sale at Sotheby's in 1821, suggesting "that it was either (i) someone who had bought the cuttings from Celotti, or (ii) Celotti himself", giving reasons for preferring the second possibility.

A significant number of those lots were bought by Ottley, yet re-appeared four years later in the famous sale of Celotti's illuminations at Christie's; I therefore suggested that Ottley and Celotti were acting in partnership to ensure that lots achieved respectable prices.

More recently I looked at the question of who actually owned the illuminations at the 1825 "Celotti" sale, and concluded that it probably was Celotti -- rather than Ottley as Christopher de Hamel has suggested.

This week I will reconsider the question of who consigned the illuminations for sale in 1821.

Saturday 14 August 2021

Olschki Stock Numbers

I have for several years known the above cutting, which was until recently in a distinguished south London private collection.

Saturday 31 July 2021

The Illuminations of Stephano Bardini (1836-1922)

I don't think that I had ever heard of Stephano Bardini [Wikipedia] until Laura Zabeo kindly told me that a couple of the illuminations in the collection of Rodolphe Kann had previously belonged to Bardini, and I was able to update their provenances and current whereabouts accordingly in this blogpost.

Laura also kindly sent me images of the relevant pages of Everett Fahy, L'Archivio storico fotografico di Stefano Bardini: Dipinti, disegni, miniature, stampe (Florence, 2000). This includes (pp. 62-64) a list of 30 illuminated cuttings and leaves, and a codex (numbered 692-723), of which photos exist in the Bardini photo archive.

The present location of some is recorded, but the whereabouts of most were not known to Fahy. In two or three posts I will therefore try to identify as many as possible so that his collection will be better known, and so that current owners can add him to the provenance of their own items. I will start with the ones for which Fahy was able to identify the later provenance, and next week turn to some of those that are harder to trace.

Saturday 24 July 2021

Who Owned the "Celotti" Cuttings Sold in 1825?

I mentioned last week that -- until I got side-tracked -- I intended to discuss some ideas put forward by Christopher de Hamel in the Introduction to the Burke Collection catalogue.

I received a copy of the Burke catalogue on 11 February, less than a week after its official 5 February publication-date, and by a curious coincidence of timing this was just four days after I wrote a blogpost about possible collaboration between Ottley and Celotti when selling illuminated cuttings, a subject addressed in the Introduction.

Sunday 18 July 2021

The Backs and Edges of Cuttings

Regular readers will know how often the backs of leaves and cuttings provide vital information. There may be a significant attribution (e.g. "From the Cathedral at Como"); a direct indication of a former owner (e.g. notes initialled "TMW" by Thomas Miller Whitehead); an auction lot number that allows it to be identified in a sale catalogue; text and/or music that allows the ambiguous subject-matter of an initial to be identified; or traces of a characteristic type of adhesive mounting-tape, that reveals it to have been sold by Otto Ege.

This week, I started to write a note about some interesting ideas presented by Christopher de Hamel in the Introduction to the recently published catalogue of the Burke Collection [1], but I quickly became side-tracked by his discussion of a cutting from Santa Maria degli Angeli, shown above.

Sunday 11 July 2021

Wernher von Eistetten: The Puzzle Solved

In a previous post in January last year, I discussed a group of cuttings that seem to come from the Dominican nunnery at Zurich, and I laid out some 19th-century evidence suggesting they were illuminated in 1300 by Wernher von Eistetten, monk of Kaiserheim. But this presented a problem: as I wrote,

"It is not clear why a monk of the Cistercian abbey of Kaiserheim, in Bavaria, might write a manuscript for a nunnery in Zurich, about 260km to the south-west"

Sunday 4 July 2021

The Zion Collection

In the 1990s I catalogued a 13th-century Bible with varied and interesting indications of provenance, including an inscription "Zion MS. 2" on the first flyleaf, as shown above. Here it is in context:

Sunday 27 June 2021

The St Albans Bible [II]

A number of end-of-month deadlines mean that I again fail to write blog this weekend, but I have added a list of leaves to my Membra disiecta pages, here.

Here is a leaf of the Bible displayed in St Albans Abbey:

The historiated initial was excised, and has been replaced in modern times by a local artist:

And here is a second leaf at the Abbey, in which the hole from an excised initial has been patched with a piece of another leaf from the Bible:

Sunday 20 June 2021

The St Albans Bible

The so-called St Albans Bible (shown above) was made in Paris in the 1320s or 1330s. The earliest certain record of its existence is when it was sold as “The Property of a Lady” at Sotheby’s, 6 July 1964, lot 239, when it consisted of 526 leaves in a 16th century vellum binding. It was bought at the sale by Philip Duschnes for £1,500, and he was selling it as single leaves by the following year.

Although it was a very substantial volume, it was far from complete, "wanting the first two leaves of the prologue and the first leaf of each of the four gospels", with "initials or decorations cut from about thirty leaves". Some leaves simply have holes where the initials were cut out, and others have the holes patched with pieces of text or border decoration from other leaves:

Sunday 13 June 2021

Email notifications for this site

There is no new blogpost this weekend, because "Feedburner", the system used by this site to send email notifications of new posts, is being discontinued, and so I have had to spend some time setting up an alternative service, using "".

I think that I have successfully moved the email adddresses of all subscribers to the new system, but it is possible that there will be glitches. If you are seeing this message after Sunday 13 June 2021, and have not had the email or RSS notification that you were previously used to receiving, please let me know (, and I will investigate.

Hopefully I'll be back with a normal blogpost next weekend ...

Saturday 5 June 2021

A New Leaf from the Pontigny Copy of Florus & Didymus

McCarthy Collection, BM1115, verso

After many publication delays, vol. III of the catalgoue of the McCarthy collection of manuscripts appeared a few weeks ago [1]. One item that proved to be have a particualrly interesting provenance, from its origin to the late late 20th century, is a leaf from a 12th-century copy of Florus of Lyon's Commentary on the Pauline Epistles and Didymus the Blind's On the Holy Spirit

A leaf that was previously unknown to me has resurfaced in the most recent catalogue of Phillip Pirages [], so now seemed to be a good moment to set out what I found out for the McCarthy catalogue entry, and add another membra disiecta page to this site.

Saturday 29 May 2021

Otto Ege's 12th-Century Italian Gospel Lectionary


Sotheby's currently have an online sale including more than thirty single leaves from Otto Ege manuscripts, including a leaf from his well-known 12th-century Italian Gospel Lectionary, shown above. I helped to catalogue the sale, giving me a reason to reconsider the parent manuscript, which I have not really thought about since a blogpost in 2015.

The main purpose of my 2015 post was to share a 1937 description of the manuscript before it was was disbound and dispersed, but I did not pursue this to its logical conclusion, to see how much we could deduce about its provenance and contents from the old description and available images.

Saturday 22 May 2021

Otto Ege's Copy of Thomas Aquinas on Peter Lombard's Sentences


One of the most easily recognisable manuscripts dispersed by Otto Ege was a copy of Thomas Aquinas's Commentary on Peter Lombard's Sentences, Book I. Typical leaves look like the one above.

Sunday 9 May 2021

[The 1766 Rubempré sale, IV:] The Date of the Sale

I have written before about the tendency of those who write about manuscripts (including me) to treat auctions and auction catalogues as interchangeable, and the inaccuracies this may cause. The Rupempré auction provides a good example.

Saturday 1 May 2021

The 1766 Rubempré sale, III: Manuscripts from the Merode-Westerloo Collection

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned Philippe-François de Merode (d.1742), 2nd Prince of Rubempré (shown above), and suggested that he acquired the illuminated Apocalypse that was later sold, in 1766, by his son, Maximilien-Leopold de Merode (1710-1769), 3rd Prince of Rubempré.

Of the other manuscripts in the 1766 Rubempré sale, at least one ought to be identifiable; lot 631 has a distinctive colophon at the end:

"Liber Decretorum ... anno Nativitatis J. C. 1326 Ego R. Joglar complevi seu perfeci Deo juvante Librum Decretorum ..."

Saturday 24 April 2021

The Malmesbury Bible [The 1766 Rubempré sale, II]

Last week I suggested that an illuminated Apocalypse in French, previously known to have been sold in the Westerloo sale in 1734, can also be identified in the auction catalogue of the Prince de Rubempré in 1766.

In today's short post I'll show that at least one more manuscript in that sale can be recognised in the same 1766 sale

Saturday 17 April 2021

The Provenance of a 14th-century Apocalypse in French (BL, Yates Thompson MS 10)

In 2010 I contributed the provenance section to a commentary volume that accompanies a facsimile of London, BL, Yates Thompson MS 10, a  illuminated Apocalypse manuscript written in French with 70 miniatures, datable to about 1360-80, of which one is shown above. [1]

The purpose of this blogpost is to summarise very briefly the provenance as I was able to establish it; to make one correction; and to make one addition.

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.