TEXT FROM THE OPENING OF TERCE
AN ILLUMINATED VELLUM MANUSCRIPT LEAF WITH AN EXCELLENT MINIATURE OF THE ANNUNCIATION TO THE SHEPHERDS, FROM A LOVELY LITTLE BOOK OF HOURS IN LATIN
Price: 4,500.00 USD
Northern France [probably Paris]: ca. 1460s. 130 x 98 mm. (5 1/8 x 3 7/8"). Single column, 14 lines in a very fine gothic book hand. Rubrics in red, verso with three one-line initials and one two-line initial in blue with white tracery and scrolling pink and blue floral infill on a ground of burnished gold, two line fillers in similar style, a panel border with acanthus leaves and much other vegetation as well as a charming yellow bird with outstretched wings, recto with two one-line initials and a line filler like those on the verso, a similar but more detailed three-line "D" on a burnished gold ground, and A SPLENDID BRUSHED GOLD FULL BORDER teeming with vegetation, flowers, and fruit in rich shades of several colors, the border inhabited by two realistically painted birds, an insect with delicate aqua wings, and a perky, long-eared squirrel munching on a berry, this golden frame ENCLOSING A VERY PLEASING ARCH-TOPPED MINIATURE OF THE ANNUNCIATION TO THE SHEPHERDS (measuring approximately 58 x 45 mm.), at the top a bright red angel peeking through a semi-circle of burnished gold and holding a scarlet banderole, in the foreground two shepherds on a hillside, attired in brown sugarloaf hats and warm tunics and leggings, one on the ground gazing up at the angel in awe, the other standing with folded arms, leaning on his staff, apparent skepticism on his face, a golden sheepdog curled up asleep a short distance away, further back a huddled herd of sheep grazing on a verdant hillside punctuated with trees, and in the distance a white, turreted castle. Significant flaking to the shepherds' garments and to one of their faces, otherwise in fine condition, the rich gold frame lustrous, the margins extremely ample, and other defects all trivial. As often happens with the Annunciation to the Shepherds image, this miniature presents us with a dramatic contrast between celestial splendor and the lowly life of humans. Above, the fiery angel parts the sky to let a small piece of heaven shine through, while on the rough ground below, two peasants in tattered clothes struggle to grasp the situation. Our shepherds are well individuated, one falling to the ground in surprise, the second more hesitant, but thrusting his face forward as if listening intently. The dog provides a spot of tranquility at the center of the scene, blissfully sleeping through all the excitement. The artist is obviously sophisticated. We can feel the night cold because of the heavy garments of the sheepherders, the tightly curled sleeping dog, and the flock of sheep conspicuously pressed together as they graze. And the miniature is well designed: the repeated round shapes of the huddle of sheep, the hill they stand on, and the treetops give the scene a pleasing design harmony, and the artist has admirably suggested depth of space by using a high horizon for the vivid green hill, placing the tower centrally in the middle distance, and adding a misty blue slope on the right in the far distance. The border (no doubt done by a different painter) is arresting in its lavish decoration, with botanical elements being unusually dense, and their swirling shapes giving a sense of movement and animation. The birds' markings are carefully rendered, and the insect's imaginatively blue-green wings are delicately stippled and flecked with larger pimple-like spots. The overall level of aesthetic achievement is high, suggesting that the leaf came from a manuscript of notable quality.