The Hours of M. de Vibrais

A Book of Hours with miniatures attributed to Jean Colombe and his workshop was sold at Christie's, 2 June 1999, lot 38, and later broken up. This page provides a list of the miniatures (with images of those that have been traced) and a transcription of the description.

The subjects of the miniatures were:
  • f.13 St John on Patmos, with his eagle wings-spread below the text panel
  • f.14v St Luke painting the Virgin, his ox in the foreground below the text
    • Private collection, NYC [added 8 Aug. 2022]:
  • f.16v St Matthew writing his Gospel attended by his angel, two angels supporting the text panel
    • Sotheby's, 6 December 2016, lot 22:
  • f.18v St Mark sharpening his pen, his lion lying, head down and with his tongue lolling out:
  • f.21 Annunciation in a gothic interior, two putti supporting the text
  • f.32 Visitation with Elisabeth kneeling at the Virgin’s feet, two putti supporting the text
  • f.43v Nativity with the Virgin and Joseph adoring the Christ Child in a large stable, two putti supporting the text
  • f.48 Annunciation to the Shepherds, a reclining shepherd in the foreground supporting the text 
  • f.52 Adoration of the Magi outside the walls of a city, with two putti supporting the text
  • f.55v Presentation in the Temple in an elaborate Church interior, with two putti supporting the text
  • f.59 Flight into Egypt, with a man seed-sowing in the foreground beneath the text 
  • f.66 The crowned Virgin and Christ enthroned, with two putti supporting the text 
  • f.70 Crucifixion with the Virgin and John the Evangelist, soldiers dicing for Christ's robe below the text
  • f.74 Pentecost, in a church interior with massed saints behind the Virgin and Apostles, one Apostle lying in the foreground beneath the text
    • Sotheby's, 2 December 2014, lot 27; now in a NY private collection [Flickr]:
  • f.79 David and Goliath, David holding up the head of Goliath as he faces the Philistine army, the body of Goliath beneath the text
  • f.98 Pieta with the three Maries and John the Evangelist, two.angels below the text
  • f.103 Job on the dungheap addressing three tormentors, a corpse in the foreground beneath the text

[The Christie's description:]


JEAN COLOMBE and workshop, BOOK OF HOURS, use of Rome, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM          [Bourges, c.1475]

158 x 108mm. 150 leaves, complete, 15 lines written in a gothic bookhand in black ink between 2 verticals and 16 horizontals ruled in dark pink, justification: 105 x 70mm, rubrics in red, one-line initials of burnished gold with grounds and infills of blue and crimson with pale yellow penwork decoration, two-line initials of similar type but often also including green in ground or infill, major devotions open with three-line camieu d’or initials containing a head, SEVENTEEN LARGE MINIATURES extending the full height of the page with three lines of text as though on a scroll, and within an architectural frame made up of two columns, an architrave and socle (holes from pilgrim badges on ff.19 & 20, upper and outer margins trimmed to frames, eight miniatures, ff.13, 21, 59, 66, 70, 74, 79, 103, with varying degrees of smudging or loss); French 16th-century light brown morocco gilt, with a double fillet, a central wreathed medallion with a monogram with the letters R I C M A superimposed and with ‘S’ fermé tools, spine diapered gilt with M, A and ‘S’ fermé (some rubbing, lower joint split at head).

The style of the miniatures would suggest that the manuscript was made in or around Bourges where the illuminator lived for nearly thirty years yet the contemporary addition of the Litany of the Virgin in an Italian hand and the uniform execution throughout of initials in an Italian style confuse the issue. The Calendar is of no obvious assistance in localisation and includes in red the feasts of Lupus Bishop of Troyes (29 July), Hugh of Grenoble (1 April), and Claude of Besancon (6 June).

The name M. de vibrais is written inside the second flyleaf.

Calendar ff.1-12; Gospel Extracts ff.13-19; Office of the Virgin ff.21-69v: matins f.21, lauds f.32, prime f.43v, terce f.48, sext f.52, none f.55v, vespers f.59, compline f.66; Hours of the Cross ff.70-73v; Hours of the Holy Spirit ff.74- 78; Seven Penitential Psalms and Litany ff.79-97v; Obsecro te ff.98-102; Office of the Dead ff.103-129v; Indulgenced prayers and suffrages ff.130-137v; Litany of the Virgin ff.138-142v (in a round Italian bookhand); Five prayers honouring the Virgin generally attributed to John the Evangelist opening Mediatris omnium et fons vivus, followed by suffrages to St Eutropius and other devotions, added in two later hands ff.143-150

The rather subdued tonality of these miniatures, enlivened with liquid gold highlighting, along with the deep receding settings described in elaborate detail and peopled with vigorously drawn figures identify these miniatures as the work of the Bourges illuminator Jean Colombe. Colombe is most famous for completing the Limbourg brothers Très Riches Heures for the Duke of Savoy at the end of his long and prolific career. The style and iconography of the miniatures of the present manuscript, however, place it among the Books of Hours that emanated from the artist’s workshop in the 1470s when his style still showed the clear impact of his contact with the work of Jean Fouquet. The form of page lay-out is one adoption from Fouquet that is used throughout this manuscript: the text is placed over the painted scene, as though on a scroll, and often supported by a pair of putti: one manuscript with miniatures of comparable composition and organisation is a Book of Hours in the Bibliothèque Nationale (N.a. Lat. 3181), Avril and Reynaud, Les Manuscrits a peintures en France 1440-1520 (Paris, 1993), no 183.


  1. Dear Peter ~ I own the Pentecost miniature, having gone through Christies, later Bonhams, later Sothebys, to International Art Gallery, from whom I bought it. It was cropped on the upper and right sides but I was able to repair the gaps with 15th century vellum. The Virgin;s face was abraded (?kissing) and so I repaired that issue. It is up on my flickr stream.
    Scott Schwartz

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