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].

1954.7.1 [Source]
Hachette 1953, lot 54
Palladino, no. 26:
Master of San Giovanni Fuorcivitas
Tuscany, 14th cent, 2nd quarter.
For more recent discussions of the leaf and the group of leaves and cuttings to which it belongs, see this 2016 blogpost by Bryan Keene, and Gaudenz Freuler's 2018 catalogue of the McCarthy collection, vol. I, no. 64.

1954.7.2 [Source]
Hachette 1953, lot 56
Palladino, no. 64:
Girolamo da Cremona
Veneto, c.1470-74
Palladino credits Charles Seymour with the attributon to Girolamo, but as can be seen above, his authorship was already recognised by 1953, and this in turn was probably based on notes by Pietro Toesca from 1935 (on which see below).

1954.7.3 [Source]
Hachette 1953, lot 57
Palladino, no. 68:
Girolamo Dai Libri (?)
Veronese, 1480s/90s (?)
The online catalogue dates it "ca. 1473", without explanation:

1954.7.4 [Source]
Hachette 1953, lot 58
Palladino, no. 60:
Circle of Master of Murano Gradual
Veneto, circa 1470
Seymour, benefitting from Pietro Toesca's opinion, attributed it to the Venetian (?) School. c. 1420. In support of this earlier dating, my understanding is that the work of the Master of the Murano Gradual is now generally dated to about the 1420s and 1430s.

1954.7.5 [Source]
Palladino no. 50:
Master of the Libro dei Notai (Domenico Pagliarolo?)
Bologna, c. 1473
Seymour records the dimensions as 59.7 × 42.6 cm. (Palladino gives exactly the same dimensions, which suggests that she accepted Seymour's figures and did not re-measure it). The Hachette description, however, gives the dimensions as 535 × 230 mm – a very implausible ratio of more than 2:1. Among the possible explanations are that the Hachette cataloguer made a mistake, or that the typsetter did. 

Another more likely explanation, I think, is that the leaf was mounted in such a way that only the illumination was visible, in exactly the same way that the image in the Palladino catalogue is cropped, giving a ratio of more than 2:1 :

There is another clue that – despite the discrepancy in dimensions – the identification of Yale 1954.7.5 with Hachette lot 50 is correct. A report of the Hachette sale in the Times Literary Supplement, 22 January 1954, p. 64, mentions that:

"The sale also included illuminations on vellum, either whole leaves or initial letters. All the Italian examples, although this was not stated in the catalogue, had been expertly examined in 1935 by Professor P. Toesca"

Seymour occasionally refers to notes by Pietro Toesca; he states that 1954.7.5 is accompanied by one; this esablishes that it comes from the Hachette collection:

The remaining, relatively minor, cuttings were discussed in the earlier post.

1954.7.6a [Source]
I now strongly suspect that this initial,  and the six framed together (1954.7.8a-f, see below), are the "7 grandes majuscules sur fond d'or" mentioned in the description of 1954.7.3 above.

As we also saw in a the earlier post, the next three initals were framed together with 1954.7.1 (and were described in the Hachette catalogue as "grandes majuscules représentent un roi, un saint évêque, un ange musicien ..."), and 1954.7.7a-d:

1954.7.6b [Source]
1954.7.6c [Source]
1954.7.6d [Source]

These four initials were part of Hachette lot 56:
1954.7.7 [Source]
as seen in the corners of this photograph of the framed ensemble:

These are doubtless six of the seven initials mentioned as part of lot 57:
1954.7.8a-f [Source]

Lastly, this one is mentioned as part of Hachette lot 56: "la Vierge et son fils":
1954.7.9 [Source]

In summary, here is a concordance of the inventory numbers now used by the Gallery, with the numbers assigned by Palladino, Seymour, and the Hachette auction catalogue:

Yale Inv. no.
Palladino (2003) no.
Seymour (1970) no.
Hachette (1953) lot
1954.7.1 26
69 54
1954.7.2 64
161 56
1954.7.3 68
143 57
185 58
1954.7.5 50
151 59
170a,b,c,d 56 (part)

169, a,b,c,d
56 (part)
171a,b,c,d,e,f 57 (part)
1954.7.9 Appendix 1
7 56 (part)

Note that the accession numbers of the first five Yale illuminations, the most important ones, run in the same sequence as the Hachette lot numbers. This suggests that the buyer at the Hachette sale made an inventory or checklist in lot order, and that this was used at Yale when assigning their accession numbers.

I assume that the reason that the Hachette provenance of these cuttings was previously unknown, is that they were bought by a dealer at the auction in mid-December 1953, and sold to Lehman within the next few months, but without telling him their source. (The dealer would not want Lehman to be able to find out what the dealer had paid at the recent auction). The dealer apparently passed on the notes by Pietro Toesca, but not the 1953 auction catalogue descriptions.

[1] Charles Seymour, Early Italian Paintings in the Yale University Art Gallery: A Catalogue (New Haven: Published for the Yale University Art Gallery by Yale University Press, 1970).

[2] Treasures of a Lost Art: Italian Manuscript Painting of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, ed. by Pia Palladino (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003).

[3] Collection André Hachette: manuscrits du XIIe au XVIe siècle, miniatures, imprimés des XVe et XVIe siècles, riches reliures armoriées [La vente aura lieu le mercredi 16 décembre 1953] (Paris: Librairie Giraud-Badin, 1953).

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