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".
The last of the three main Dyson Perrins sales had taken place just a few months earlier, on 29 November 1960 (the title-page and frontispiece are shown at the top of this post), and is is very easy to identify the Collectors' Corner group as coming from lot 151: both catalogues reproduce a cutting in the style of the Master B.F. (discussed in previous posts, e.g. here) depicting Jesus Walking on Water:
Sotheby's, 29 November 1960, part of lot 151

Collectors' Corner, 3 (Spring, 1961), no. 97

Although there are no more reproductions in the Collectors' Corner catalogue, it is easy to match its other cuttings with those in the Dyson Perrins catalogue, e.g.:
Collectors' Corner, no. 98: "God the Father with the Holy Dove [...] Milan, c. 1460"
Dyson Perrins, lot 151: "God the Father with the Holy Dove", "from a Milanese manuscript of c. 1460"
The Dyson Perrins catalogue is also the source of the Collectors' Corner attributions of some of the initials to the Master B.F. and Venturino Mercati, and of their suggested origins at St Victor, Milan, and the Olivetan house of Monte Oliveto. The Dyson Perrins catalogue further remarks that some of the cuttings come from the same parent manuscripts as cuttings in the Holford collection, cuttings in the Northwick Park collection, and a cutting at the British Library: Add. MS 17864C (online here). All of these derived from the 1838 Ottley sale.

The Dyson Perrins lot included 120 cuttings, including 37 historiated initials, which were not loose: they were mounted on 34 leaves of stiff paper and bound at the back of a copy of a printed book: Henry Shaw, Illuminated Ornaments Selected from Manuscripts of the Middle Ages (1833), which was in a binding signed by the noted London binder Charles Lewis, dated 1838. The volume had the bookplate and signature and of John Lomax, of Clayton Hall, Lancashire, dated 5 January 1842, and the bookplate of W.O. Wade.
The 1838 date of the binding, on a book published in 1833, is extremely suggestive. The most obvious conclusion is that the Lomax-Wade cuttings were bought at the Ottley sale in May 1838, and then their new owner had them mounted on pieces of card and had his copy of  Shaw's Illuminated Ornaments finely rebound to incorporate them. This would be an especially appropriate setting for a collection of cuttings bought at the Ottley sale, because several of the plates in Shaw's book are copies of cuttings in Ottley's collection:

One further clue in favour of an Ottley provenance for the cuttings is the fact that, according to the Dyson Perrings description: 
"a bookseller's description inside the upper cover states that the illuminations were 'cut out of altar service books (particuarly that of Como) during the French invasion of Italy.'"
Como is mentioned several times in the Ottley catalogue as the origin of cuttings, but is not even mentioned once in the Celotti catalogue.

An alternate hypothesis, however, is provided by Anne-Marie Eze, who identifies many of the Lomax-Wade cutings as coming from the earlier Celotti sale. [1]

To test these competing hypotheses, we can try to identify the Lomax-Wade-Dyson Perrins-Collectors' Corner initials in the Ottley catalogue, but unfortunately this is inconclusive, because most of the subjects are rather common and generic (e.g. Nicholas, Christ, an abbot-saint, SS. Peter and Paul, the Coronation of the Virgin). 

The only subject that is really unusual in the Dyson Perrins description is "a saint scourging himself" (i.e. the Camaldolese saint Dominic Loricatus [Wikipedia]), a cutting that reappeared for sale in 1993 with a colour reproduction:
This would seem to tip the balance of probability in favour of Anne-Marie's hypothesis, as this distictive subject is not described anywhere in the Ottley catalogue, but does appear in the Celotti catalogue, as part of lot 7 (where the saint is assumed to be female, probably because the hood of his habit looks like a veil):

Even this is not conclusive however, because at least one other cutting with the same subject survives elsewhere, and it is not certain which (if either) is the one that was in the Celotti sale:
Chicago, LUMA, 1975:19

To try to resolve this impasse, which ultimately rests on a balance of probabilities, we must look more closely at the contents of the Lomax-Wade group of cuttings; this will be the subject of a future blogpost.

[1] Anne-Marie Eze, ‘Abbé Luigi Celotti (1759-1843): Connoisseur, Dealer, and Collector of Illuminated Miniatures’ (unpublished PhD, Courtauld Institute of Art, 2010).

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