Saturday, 4 June 2022

More About the Regensburg "GERWIRCH" Antiphonary

NYC, Morgan Library, MS M.870.2 [Source]

About four years ago I wrote a post in which I reproduced most of the leaves of a broken-up Antiphonary, and shared my discovery of a 1945 description of the intact volume, telling us more about it before its dismemberment.

I have now found an even earlier description of the complete volume, which supplies a few extra details.

Saturday, 28 May 2022

Leaves from Cicero, De oratore, written in 1453

University of Rochester, D.460 1353-001 [Source]

In preparation for a manuscripts safari this summer, I am combing through online library catalogues of collections in New York state for manuscripts of interest. The Rush Rhees Library of the University of Rochester has an online handlist of its medieval and early modern manuscripts, for example, and one that particularly caught my eye is this:

 
The precise date "1353", suggests that the cataloguer knew something about the parent manuscript, and reminded me of Otto Ege's Dominican Missal dated 1353. As luck would have it, this is one of only two medieval manuscripts for which images are available online, so I was able to have a look; a whole-page view is shown above. 

Sunday, 22 May 2022

MdM and AdM

 

Occasionally a provenance clue consists of the initials of the the forenames of the owner and his/her spouse, joined by a so-called "love-knot".

I recently noticed an example that has not two, but three initials, "M", "d", and "M", as above; here is the full page:

McGill University, MS 104

The presence of three initials struck me as odd, but I didn't give it any more thought.

Saturday, 14 May 2022

Frederic Madden's Journal: The Rogers Sale

I have mentioned at least twice before the potential importance of distinguishing between the first day of a multi-day auction (which is how people usually cite auctions), and the day on which a particular manuscript was actually sold, as the latter could be several weeks later. One situation in which we may need to know the day on which a manuscript sold, is when we are trying to find references to it in things like personal diaries and journals, or newspaper reports. 

Many people are aware of the value of Sydney Cockerell's diaries (now at the BL) for finding out about auctions of the first half of the 20th century, but it seems that too few people use the journals of Frederic Madden for information about 19th-centuy sales.

Sunday, 8 May 2022

"The School of Giotto"


One of the challenges of provenance research is interpreting catalogue descriptions when there is no accompanying image to verify the identity of a manuscript. The task would be simpler if catalogue descriptions were always accurate, but they sometimes contain typographical errors; sometimes written statements are open to different interpretations and are therefore ambiguous; sometimes cataloguers get things wrong in good faith; and they often get things wrong by being overly optimistic in their attributions.

Saturday, 30 April 2022

Buyers and Prices at the Rogers Sale in 1856

[Source]

I have written several times about the need to locate multiple annotated copies of auction catalogues, because the annotations in any one copy cannot be trusted as reliable. And I have written (e.g. here) about the need to distinguish between the date on which a manuscript was sold and the date on which the auction commenced, because these are often not the same. In looking at the famous 1856 sale at Christie's of the collection of the poet Samuel Rogers (mentioned e.g. here), both these principles are exemplified, as will be discussed today and in next weekend's post.

Saturday, 23 April 2022

"Dawkins"

It goes without saying that in order to trace the provenance of a manuscript (whether it be a codex, leaf, or cutting) from an auction to its subsequent owners, you need to identify who bought it at the auction. First, you usually need to find an annotated copy of the catalogue; then you need to be able to read the name of the buyer. If you are lucky, it will be a well-known and very distictive name, such as the dealers Quaritch, Dobell, or Colnaghi; or a collector like Cockerell, Riches, or Korner, each of whom is fairly easy to pursue further. Sometimes the name is only semi-legible or it is very common (Smith, Jones, etc.). Sometimes it is legible and reasonably uncommon, but unfamiliar; in this post I'll consider one such example.

Sunday, 17 April 2022

The Lehman Archive at The Met Museum

[This, and all but the first of the next 9 images below, are from the
Robert Lehman papers, Robert Lehman Collection,
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, boxes 73-76]

On my trip to the US before Christmas I spent a couple of days at the Watson Library of The Met Museum. My primarly purpose was to work through the files of the archive of Robert Lehman (1891-1969) [Wikipedia] relating to his collection of illuminations.

Sunday, 10 April 2022

Unnoticed Leaves of Ranulf Higden's Polychronicon

Latin Fragment D.1 (detail)
This and the following images reproduced by courtesy of the
Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections, University of Birmingham

I went to Birmingham last week to see the Crivelli exhibition. While in the city, I also went to The Barber Institute (to look at paintings, not manuscripts such as the Liberale da Verona cutting mentioned at the end of this post), and the University Library (because they have a very good set of Folio Society Collectors' Corner catalogues, some of which I have not been able to consult anywhere else), and the Cadbury Research Centre (Special Collections), which holds a large collection of little-known fragments. (And I do mean fragments, not cuttings and leaves). 

As usual, in my experience, about 90% of the fragments were unintersting to me (Canon Law, Sermons, Use of Sarum liturgica, etc.), but 9% are interesting and 1% are very interesting. One of the two or three items that comprise the 1% is an unrecorded portion of a copy of Ranulf Higden's Polychronicon  Wikipedia], of which a detail is shown above.[1]

Saturday, 2 April 2022

Cuttings by The Master of the Brussels Initials in the 1910 Stroganoff Catalogue?

In a previous post I showed that a cutting of an initial 'U' with St John the Evangelist by the Master of the Brussels Initials has the remains of the Stroganoff ink stamp on the reverse. Its dimensions were reported as 135×135mm when sold by Christie's in 2017. I suspect that it was lot 627 in the 1910 Stroganoff auction, and that the cataloguer mistakenly identified the evangelist as Luke instead of John:

"U. Ritaglio di corale decorato dalla figura dell'evange-lista Luca.
Contorno ed aureola dorata. Arte Umbra, secolo xv.
m. 0.13 × 0.13"
This hypothesis would be considerably strengthened if the preceding item, lot 626b, were the initial 'S' depicting St Stephen by the Master of the Brussels Initials, now belonging to The Met Museum, but the 1910 description is too vague to make a confident identification:
 
"S. decorata dalla figura di S. Stefano. Policromata e dorata"

One more cutting by the Master of the Brussels Initials, certainly from the Stroganoff collection (because it has his ink-stamp on the reverse), might have been lot 621:
"O. Ritaglio di corale, con l'effige del Salvatore in atto
di benedire. Aureola dorata. Arte Umbra del secolo xv.
m. 0.95 × 0.10"
At  c.135×100mm this cutting is significantly taller than it is wide -- but far less tall than the 950×100mm reported in the Stroganoff catalogue. An initial more than 9 times taller than it is wide and nearly a metre tall, however, is almost impossible to imagine, which suggests that the dimensions printed in the Stroganoff catalogue are the result of a typographical error. It is also notable that the initial above is an 'E', while the catalogue describes an 'O'; yet such a confusion is easy to understand.

So, it may be that all three, two, one, or none of the above initials are described in the Stroganoff catalogue, and the above comments are therefore rather speculative: there are problems with all three identifications. I try to avoid indulging in unsupported speculation, and have little patience for other scholars' work when it is insufficiently founded on firm facts, but in the present case I think that there is a balance of probability in my favour, because two of the three cuttings above were definitely in the Stroganoff collection, and all three of their subjects as reported in the 1910 catalogue, namely:
  • an initial 'U' with an Evangelist with gilded halo and surround, c.130×130mm
  • an initial 'S' with St Stephen, in colours and gold
  • a cutting of an initial from a choirbook, with Christ Blessing

Saturday, 26 March 2022

The "Whitby" Psalter

As mentioned in the previous post, much of my earliest research on illuminated manuscripts concerned 13th-century English Psalters, and although I have not published much on the subject, I have always maintained an interest in them. I was therefore glad, several years ago, to be able to spend some time examining the so-called Whitby Psalter at the Houghton Library (of which an image is shown above).[1]

The Psalter is now very incomplete: the Houghton has a bound portion of just 28 leaves, but in the past several years I have found several more, and have long intended to do a blogpost. I found another recently, and this has spurred me into action.[2]

Sunday, 20 March 2022

Otto Ege's Psalter with 'Aves' (HL116)

Many years ago, I worked on a group of early 13th-century English Psalters, some of which include a  hymn or series of prayers to the Virgin in which each stanza starts with the word "Ave". So I took special notice when, in 2014, I encountered at the Philadelphia Museum of Art a leaf from a later 13th-century (c.1270) Franco-Flemish example, with the "Ave" stanza before each Psalm, curiously enframed in illuminated ornament, as in the image above.

Sunday, 13 March 2022

The Antiphonal of Berardo da Teramo in 1924

When I was in New York at Christmas I spent some time at the Watson Library in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, mainly looking at the part of the Robert Lehman Archive pertaining to his illuminations. I'll be doing a separate post about it in due course, because it tells us a lot about when and where he acquired them, and explains the weird numbering of items that appears in de Ricci's Census.

Today I'll just highlight one provenance discovery that came out of this work, relating to the Antiphonary of Berardo da Teramo (of which an image is shown above), one of the most important illuminated manuscripts from Abruzzo, of the second quarter of the 14th century.

Sunday, 6 March 2022

The Murano Gradual Initials [II]: The Minor Initials

There is a particular type of cut-out illuminated foliate initial which is found in many institutions, and of which examples appear on the market with some regularity. Once you have seen a few they are very easy to recognise, because although one may differ from another in their type of foliage, their formal and technical features are very consistent. The image above has been chosen to give a sense of their overall uniformity as well as variety of foliage-types (click the image to enlarge). Over the course of a couple of posts I intend to look at this large group of initials (I know of more than 200 of them [1]), and consider some questions they raise.

In 1994 Christopher de Hamel suggested that the initials came from the same manuscript as the well-known historiated initials cut from the Murano Gradual; he based this partly on details of their illuminated ornament, but mainly on the script of the text and music on their backs[2], and since then, they have regularly been described as having come from the Murano Gradual. The question of the parent volume has been addressed very recently. In 2019 Bryan C. Keene and Stephanie Azzarello offered some observations both for and against accepting de Hamel's proposal, but left the question open: 'further analysis of this entire group of illuminations is in order and will be part of a longer study'. In a recent article, having had the opportunity for further analysis, they concluded that "[the initials'] association with the Murano manuscripts does not seem likely", and pointing to evidence that "aids in disassociating De Hamel’s group of initials from the Murano series".

Saturday, 26 February 2022

More Italian Illuminations from the Stroganoff Collection

In the April 1910 auction catalogue of the Stroganoff Collection (discussed in a recent post here), most of the descriptions are too imprecise or generic to make recognition possible, e.g. lot 614, an unidentified 15th-century Florentine half-length bishop-saint:

"D. Ritaglio di corale; effige di Santo Vescovo a mezzo
busto. Arte F[i]orentina secolo xv."

A few others describe more distinctive features, however, and I have therefore been able to identify a couple, and can thus add some previously unknown, or at least forgotten, provenance to them.

Saturday, 19 February 2022

The Wildenstein "Mission to the Apostles"

Many of the historiated initials illuminated by the Master of the Murano Gradual depict saints or subjects whose identity is not in doubt, because they have distinctive attributes; an example is St Stephen, who was stoned to death and is therefore shown with a stone and a bloody wound on his head.

Many others do not include such attributes, and their identity is therefore uncertain. In some cases this may be because the cuttings come from the Common of Saints, and are thus deliberately intended to represent a generic martyr / bishop / confessor, etc., rather than a specific one.

But the subject of one illumination, a detail of which is shown above, is more perplexing than any other. It is one of a dozen illuminations by the Master of the Murano Gradual in the Wildenstein Collection at the Musée Marmottan, Paris. It is puzzling partly because it is so important: at about 540×365mm (c.21×14 inches) it is by far the largest illumination, and perhaps the only miniature (as opposed to a historiated initial) from the entire corpus of cuttings and single leaves attributed to the artist, usually thought to come from a dismembered volume of the multi-volume of Gradual of San Mattia, Murano. [1]

Thursday, 17 February 2022

Count Stroganoff and The Missal of the Tailors' Guild of Bologna

Five years ago I had reason to try to track down a copy of the 1910 auction catalogue of Count Grigory Sergeievich Stroganoff (blog post here). Thanks to Francesca Manzari, and especially to Philine Helas of the Bibliotheca Hertziana, which holds one of the few recorded copies, I was able to get images of the relevant pages.

The cuttings I was searching for do not appear to be in the 1910 catalogue, but another interesting illumination was.

Sunday, 13 February 2022

A Spanish(?) Initial Dated 1505

[Source]

The initial above sold at an auction in Barcelona last week. It is appealing, but I do not really know what to make of it. 

Saturday, 5 February 2022

A Spanish Choirbook dated 1522

I usually do not pay much attention to 16th-century and later choirbooks, especially when their decoration is mediocre (as they usually are) but one caught my eye this week. It was sold at auction a few minutes ago [1].

Most of the 15 images online did not spark my interest, except the last.

Wednesday, 2 February 2022

Bill Fagg and Methodology

[This midweek post comes from a long and growing list in my drafts folder]

My first job after leaving university was at Christie's, South Kensington (more-or-less next door to the building in which I was born, as I later discovered), where I worked in the Tribal Art Department [1]. It was the only time that I put my knowledge of Tribal Art to any use, and it introduced me to the fascinating world of art auctions and dealers.

William "Bill" Fagg (1914-1992), the legendary Africanist, was the Department's Consultant and was often in the office, so I had the pleasure of getting to know him before he died.

While searching JSTOR for somethign else, I came across a letter published by him [2], in which he relates that when he first did fieldwork in Africa in 1949, he had no specific training for it. But, he continues,

"I would here like to mention a qualification which I have for fieldwork -- though some would consider it a millstone around my neck. I mean a love of minutiae, nurtured during my studies in classical palaeography at Cambridge under the great Sir Ellis Minns. This is tied up with a pursuit of irrelevancies, real or imagined."

Two things strike me about these comments. One is that -- as I learned after a bit of Googling -- he had trained as a Classicist ("taking prizes for Latin hexameters and Latin epigrams") before doing a second degree in Archaeology and Anthropology. 

The other is the characteristically self-deprecating way in which he refers to his "pursuit of irrelevancies". It seems to me that we cannot really know what are irrelevancies and what are not, unless we pursue them.

The head of the Department, Hermione Waterfield, wrote a posthumous appreciation of Bill, in which she recalled,

"In spite of his slow speech and apparent torpor, Bill Fagg was a stimulating companion with a huge capacity to surprise. He also had a capacity to exasperate with his dilatory attitude [...] He explained to me that much of his apparent procrastination was due to his approach to problems, which was to eliminate the obscure possibilities before pursuing the more obvious."

This sounds to be an effective, but very counter-intuitive, method for arriving at unexpected conclusions missed by previous students of any subject or object -- including manuscripts. Too many people accept an obvious solution to a problem, and as a result do not consider less obvious ones.

Those who knew him will recognise her closing sentences:

"He often hoped to influence collectors to his view, sometimes taking a contrary position to enforce a point he felt was misunderstood: he could be self-indulgent on occasion, giving way to flights of fancy, but in prose that was so well crafted he had to be forgiven. In the end all who knew him had to admit, often through clenched teeth, that he was a great man."


Notes

[1] "Tribal Art" may seem to be a perjoritive term now, but it described the cultural context in which most of the Department's art was created; alternate terms, such as "non-Western Art" and "World Art" have their own problems.

[2] African Arts, 19, no. 4 (August, 1986), p. 77.

For further biographical information, there is an obituary here.

Saturday, 29 January 2022

A Ghent Breviary (Ege HL 18)

I was recently browsing the 1974 exhibition catalogue of Medieval Art in Upstate New York:

It reminded me that, in addition to an Otto Ege portfolio of "Fifty Original Leaves" (digitized here), the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library has some other interesting leaves and codices. I emailed the Library, and Amy J. Pickard, the Rare Book Curator, kindly and very promptly sent me reference images of all the leaves I enquired about.

In addition to a leaf from Ege HL 18 [1] in the "Fifty Original Leaves" portfolio (here), the Library has another leaf from the same manuscript, which we will come to shortly. The 90-leaf carcass of the parent volume was offered (but was apparently unsold) as part of the Ege estate at Sotheby's, 26 November 1985, lot 59 [2], and from this large portion it was possible to attribute the manuscript to "Flanders, possibly Ghent", because the litany includes numerous other Flemish saints, including Livinus and Bavo (who were important in Ghent) highly-placed.

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Another Unrecognised Budé Manuscript?

[I failed to do a blogpost this last weekend, so here is a quick one to fill the gap.]

I hope to get to Portugal this summer, so I am looking through the Inventário dos códices iluminados até 1500, ed. by Isabel Vilares Cepeda and others (2 vols, Lisbon, 1994), to see if there are any libraries I ought to visit. In the first volume is an image of Lisbon, Biblioteca de Ajuda, 46-VIII-13, shown above.

Tuesday, 18 January 2022

Online Symposium in July: Fragmented Illuminations at the V&A

Readers of this blog may like to know about an online symposium that is being planned for July; details below.

You may also be interested to see that the website for the exhibition at the V&A has been expanded considerably over the course of the last couple of months to include new photographs of the installation and an ASMR video of the pages of a large 15th-century choirbook being turned; the latter has already been viewed about 130,000 times and generated lots of enthusiastic comments. (If the V&A website asks you to change your cookie settings and you prefer not to, you can experience the video at YouTube here). 

For those who have not yet seen it, the exhibition has now been extended until 5 June.

FRAGMENTED ILLUMINATIONS SYMPOSIUM - CALL FOR PAPERS

With over 2,000 manuscript cuttings, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London holds one of the largest collections of this kind in the world. Cut out of Italian, Germanic, Netherlandish, French, Spanish, and English manuscripts, they range from the 12th to the 18th century, with a wealth of 15th- and 16th-century examples. They vary in size, from small border snippets and initials to full leaves and, though they have come largely from choirbooks, other types of books are also represented.

The V&A will be organising an online symposium in early July as a follow-up to the display Fragmented Illuminations: Medieval and Renaissance Manuscript Cuttings at the Victoria and Albert Museum (extended until 5 June 2022). It will be held over one afternoon to allow for as large an audience as possible to join and participate, from different time zones.

We welcome papers focusing on any of the following themes and aspects, preferably in relation to pieces in the V&A collection:

  • Study of groups of cuttings from the same manuscript source
  • Provenance research and history of collections
  • Questions of attribution and iconography
  • Identification of parent manuscripts when extant; reconstructions of broken manuscripts
  • Materiality and digital display of manuscript cuttings: opportunities and challenges
  • Comparison with other types of intentionally cut-out medieval and Renaissance fragments, such as textile cuttings, cuttings from printed material, etc.
  • Relationship between manuscript cuttings and copies
  • 19th-cent reception of, and responses to, medieval and Renaissance illuminated manuscripts 

This list is indicative rather than exhaustive.

A preference will be given to contributions focusing on lesser-known examples in the collection and adopting innovative approaches.

Please send an abstract (max. 300 words), a paper title, and a short biography (max. 150 words) to c.yvard@vam.ac.uk.

Papers should be no more than 15 minutes in length, to allow time for questions and discussion.

The deadline for submissions is March 6, 2022. Selected speakers will be notified by mid-March.


Saturday, 15 January 2022

Murano Gradual Initials [I]

As regular readers will know, I have been interested in the so-called Master of the Murano Gradual for several years, despite knowing very little about Italian illumination. My interest in locating the surviving examples of his work perhaps go back to about 2014, when I first started to get interested in the 1838 Ottley sale (e.g. here), which included several. From 2016 I began to pass relevant images and bits of information such as auction-catalogue references to Stephanie Azzarello, who was doing her PhD on the artist and his manuscripts, and to Bryan Keene, who was also interested in the artist, as I had no intention of doing anything serious with the material myself. They have now collaborated on two articles published in the last few years:

Bryan C. Keene and Stephanie Azzarello, ‘Uno splendido enigma: Il Maestro del Graduale di Murano’, Alumina, 64, 2019, 14–21

Stephanie Azzarello and Bryan C. Keene, ‘Splendors of the Serenissima in a Digital Age: The Master of the Murano Gradual Reconsidered’, Manuscript Studies: A Journal of the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies, 6.2 (2021), 223–67 [1]

The second of these appeared very recently, and as it includes the most extensive list of the cuttings from the Murano Gradual, with their provenances, it has prompted me to sort through my miscellaneous notes, and I intend to blog a series of observations and thoughts, with a few corrections, additions, and questions, in the hope that they will also contribute to future studies.

One "correction" (if I am not myself mistaken) concerns the iconography of a cutting now at the Musée Cluny in Paris, shown above.

Saturday, 8 January 2022

Three "Jaquemart de Hesdin" Miniatures Resurface

I have written twice (in 2015 and again in 2016) about a series of miniatures (which have been attributed to Jacquemart de Hesdin [Wikipedia]), cut from a very interesting early 15th-century Parisian Book of Hours with unusual (unique?) prayers in French.

Sunday, 2 January 2022

Arthur Haddaway's Price-Code

Arthur Haddawy [Source]
Arthur Haddaway (1901–1981), of Fort Worth, Texas, is not well known as a collector of medieval manuscripts, although his library included the Hours of Charlotte of Savoy, among others:
Morgan Library, MS. M.1004 [Source]