TEXT FROM THE OFFICE OF THE DEAD
AN ILLUMINATED VELLUM MANUSCRIPT LEAF WITH A MINIATURE OF JOB ON THE DUNG HEAP, FROM A BOOK OF HOURS IN LATIN
Price: 4,500.00 USD
France: c. 1480. 150 x 105 mm. (6 x 4 1/8"). Attractively matted and framed. Three-line initial "D" inhabited by the image of a skull, A FULL-PAGE MINIATURE depicting Job sitting on a dung heap in front of a ruined house, talking with three men, and with an emaciated body at the foot of the scene, framed by two gold columns See: Avril and Reynaud, "Les Manuscrits a Peintures en France," pp. 326-7. Significant rubbing to the paint in the bottom portion of the leaf on the right and beneath the text (including the corpse), a few small smudges and chips of paint here and there (mostly negligible), otherwise a well-preserved specimen, the paint in the main scene thick and rich. This miniature, attributed to a prolific artist with ties to the famed "Très Riches Heures" of the Duc de Berry, displays a complex array of imagery. Unlike the other sections of a Book of Hours, which were often truncated and simplified for a lay audience, the Office of the Dead contains the exact same cycle of prayers found in the liturgy of the Church. The nine lessons found therein all come from the book of Job, making illustrations of his story a particularly apt choice to accompany this section. This particular scene shows Job at his lowest point, having lost his family and riches, emaciated, covered in nothing but a loincloth, and sitting upon a dung heap. Although the artist chose not to show the boils and sores that he would have been suffering at this moment, the direness of his situation is clear. At the right stand three men, the richness of their attire a stark contrast to Job's nakedness, who have come to counsel and comfort their friend. Interestingly, beneath the opening line of text that appears in this miniature are the skeletal remains of a body along with a second skull. While images of corpses frequently occur in miniatures depicting funeral rites and burials, it is unusual to find such imagery in a miniature devoted to quite another subject altogether (let alone one with a prescribed Biblical text on which to draw). With the additional skull in the initial, one will notice that there are three in total; might they, along with the three friends depicted above, be an allusion to the Three Living and Three Dead? The miniature can be attributed to Jean Colombe (ca. 1430-93), a prolific illuminator active in Bourges in the 1460s through the 1480s and best known for his finishing work on the "Très Riches Heures" after the death of the Limbourg brothers. According to Avril and Reynaud, he was influenced by both Barthélemy d'Eyck and to a greater extent Fouquet, but quickly developed a recognizable style of own. Given the complexity of the scene in the present miniature, it is no surprise that Colombe's style is known to be "excellent in narrative and anecdote, and does not shy away from any accumulation of details" (p. 326).