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.

The stated origin of the lots that immediately precede the signed Nebridio cutting (lot 172) all seem to be the same: the cathedral of Como.  

Lot 160 is described as "from the Church at Como", lot 161 is "from the Cathedral at Como", lot 162 is "from the same place", and the implication is that the next several lots ("Three others", "Seven others", etc.) are also from the same place:

As shown in the image above, lots 161, 166, and 168 were bought by Payne, and so there is a strong possibility that they might now be at Harvard.

Lot 166 includes "Monks performing the Burial service", and is therefore a match for this Harvard cutting:

Houghton Library, MS Typ 984(1) [Source]
especially because its reverse has a familiar pencil inscription:

"from the Cathedral of Como" and "No 3." [1] [Detail]

The description of this lot also specifies the subjects of three other initials:
"Eight others—The Nativity; Baptism of Christ; a Royal Prophet; Monks performing the Burial service,  &c."
It seems plausible to me that the Nativity and Baptism are these two Harvard cuttings:
Houghton, MS Typ 986

Houghon, MS Typ 933(2)

Not only is the Nativity closely related in style to the Burial Service initial, but both of them have "from the Cathedral of Como" inscriptions:


I am less confident about the next identification, but I think it likely that the "Royal Prophet" is this:
Houghton, MS Typ 985
[Reverse, detail]

The preceding lot, also bought by Payne, and therefore likely to be among the Hoe Album cuttings at Harvard, is described as follows:
"Seven from the Cathedral at Como—The Transfiguration; the Descent of the Holy Spirit; Martyrdom of a Saint, &c.
I suspect that "The Transfiguration" is a misunderstanding of the iconography, and is fact an Ascension:
Houghton, MS Typ 982(2)
[Reverse, detail]

Houghton, MS Typ 982(1)
[Reverse, detail]

The "Martyrdom of a Saint" is tricky to identify, but I suspect it is this one, partly because if the identity of the saint had been obvious to the cataloguer (e.g. Peter, Paul, Andrew, Margaret) they would presumably have specified who is represented:
Houghton, MS Typ 990

A considerable number of other Harvard cuttings can be tenatively identified in the Ottely catalogue, but I will end with two that went a different route.

Lot 167 -- as can be seen above in the image of the annotated auction catalogue -- was bought by Rodd, not Payne, and is thus not among the Harvard cuttings:
"Six others—St. Maurice, with armour painted in silver; a Group of Female Saints, &c."
The two whose subjects are specified were in the Northwick Park collection from before 1850 until they were sold in 1925, and then in the Czeczowitzka collection until sold again in 1930. The "St Maurice, with armour painted in silver" (he is identified in the right-hand upright of the letter "A") is now at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC:
NGA, DC, Inv. 1949.5.89
and its companion, the "Group of Female Saints", was last seen at Christie's in 2013:
[Source]

EDIT, 14 January 2021:
I should have mentioned that one of the reasons I am confident that the above two cuttings correspond to lot 167 in the Ottley sale is that, when sold from the Czeczowitzka collection in 1930, the catalogue noted “Aus einem Antiphonar des Domes zu Como”. At that date, they must still have been accompanied by something (no longer present) that indicated them to be "from the Cathedral of Como".



[1] The "No 3." below "from the Cathedal of Como" appears to have been written by a different person, or at least at a different time, although there is no obvious way to know if it was written before or after. Similar numbers are on the backs of most of the Hoe-Harvard Como cuttings, as can be seen in the images above. These numbers have been mentioned before, notably by Anna Melograni, but as far as I am aware, no explanation/interpretation has yet been widely accepted. Anna also notes the connection between cuttings with "Como" inscriptions, and the Ottley and Northwick auctions: see ‘Miniature inedite del Quattrocento lombardo nelle collezione americane [prima parte]’, Storia dell’Arte, 82 (1994), 283–302 esp. at p. 301 nn. 65 and 71.

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