TEXT FROM THE OPENING OF VESPERS
AN ILLUMINATED VELLUM MANUSCRIPT LEAF WITH A GRUESOME MINIATURE OF THE MASSACRE OF THE INNOCENTS, FROM A FINE BOOK OF HOURS IN LATIN AND FRENCH
Price: 6,000.00 USD
Paris: ca. 1450. 159 x 108 mm. (6 1/4 x 4 1/4"). Single column, four lines of text on the verso, 15 on the recto, in a very pleasing gothic book hand. Attractively matted. Recto with a line filler in colors and gold, verso with a one-line initial in burnished gold on a maroon and blue background with white tracery and a three-line "D" in blue and white enclosing a spray of violets in the same colors, the capital on a burnished gold ground, the same side WITH A FULL SWIRLING BORDER of acanthus leaves, flowers, and berries, and many burnished gold ivy leaves ENCLOSING A BLOODY ILLUMINATED MINIATURE OF THE MASSACRE OF THE INNOCENTS (measuring approximately 78 x 54 mm.). Fore and lower margins on the side with the miniature a bit rubbed and with a faint patina reflecting frequent use (also, minor fading and loss of paint and gold in the same place), otherwise in fine condition, THE MINIATURE itself REMARKABLY WELL PRESERVED, WITHOUT ANY EROSION OF PIGMENT. This leaf comes from a Book of Hours decorated by extremely skilled members of what must have been a first-class workshop. The Massacre of the Innocents cannot help but be a moving subject, and the composition here as well as the painter's considerable ability add to the emotional impact in the present miniature. The center of the scene is dominated by the gold-armored, gray-bearded soldier whose sword is raised over the head of a woman clinging to her son. The blood-spattered foreground is littered with the dismembered bodies of infants, looking like so many broken dolls. On the left, we see a row of modest cottages, providing considerable depth as they recede toward distant hills. On the right stands a crowd of grim-faced soldiers, all as elderly as their commander, and seemingly following orders that are unwelcomed; it is perhaps the acute sadness in their faces that makes this scene especially memorable. The clear sky, green fields, and serene blue mountains in the distance contrast markedly with the horrific events unfolding.