Book of Hours by a Gold Scrolls Painter Spread 0

Book of Hours by a Gold Scrolls Painter Spread 0 cover

Book of Hours (Use of Rome) In Latin, illuminated manuscript on parchment Southern Netherlands, Bruges, c. 1450 37 full-page miniatures, 13 small miniatures, and 8 historiated initials by the Gold Scrolls Painter of Berlin, Kunstbibliothek, MS Grisebach, 4

First coined by F. Winkler in 1925, the Masters of the Gold Scrolls is now thought to refer to a style practiced by a group of artists, not to a single hand, active between about 1415 and 1455 probably in Bruges (see the recent assessment, [Exhibition], Brussels and Paris, 2011, pp. 140-147). Named for the dominant use of gold scrolls on flat, often burnt orange grounds in the backgrounds of many of the miniatures, the style is also characterized by the presentation of figures with oval doll-like faces, the nose, mouth, and eyes summarily treated. They are drawn with supple, unbroken lines and make stereotyped gestures. The prevailing colors are green, blue, red and orange. The style of these artists is formed by a combination of influences. There is a manuscript begun by the Boucicaut Master and finished by the Gold Scrolls Masters, the Hours of Joseph Bonaparte (Paris, BnF, MS. lat. 10538), and at the same time in some of the early production there is also the influence of the “ars nova” or pre-Eyckian artists, such as the Master of the Beaufort Saints. By the end of the lengthy span of production, the artists collaborate with those of the generation of Willem Vrelant, for example on the Montfort Book of Hours (Vienna, ÖNB, Cod. s.n. 12878). The hypothesis that Vrelant actually took over the “workshop” of the Gold Scrolls Master when he arrived in Bruges has been advanced; certainly the refined Vrelant of the 1450s owes much to the Gold Scrolls painters of the 1430s and 1440s; indeed, his style grows directly out of theirs.

The discovery of any significant manuscript from the workshop presents a welcome opportunity to sort out further questions of the production of the Masters of the Gold Scrolls. The present manuscript, although modest in height and width, is exceptionally rich both in ancillary texts (it is almost 400 folios thick) and in illustration, including nearly sixty pictures. Beginning with a Calendar, followed by two special Suffrages, nearly the whole first third of the manuscript is made up of the relatively unusual Hours of the Days of the Week (from the Sunday Hours of the Trinity to the Friday Hours of the Cross). These are followed by the traditional Hours of the Virgin, the Hours of the Passion, the Penitential Psalms, and the Office of the Dead, and then by a large number of Suffrages, mostly addressed to male saints. The presence of two different versions of the “O intemerata,” a prayer requesting the Virgin’s intercession, is especially remarkable. The “Obsecro te” and both versions of the “O intemerata” are written in the masculine form, and there is a paucity of female saints in the Suffrages, which suggest that the patron was a man.

Indeed, the unusual emphasis on Louis of Toulouse and Francis of Assisi, with their Suffrages occupying a place of honor at the beginning of the book just after the Calendar and before any of the Hours, suggests that our book’s patron was a member of the Third Order of Saint Francis. Saint Louis of Toulouse, cadet of the royal house of Anjou, was embraced by the Franciscans. The Franciscan Tertiaries included both congregations of vowed men and women and fraternities of men and women, who lived standard lives in the world usually married. Otherwise unidentified, the original owner is represented twice in the manuscript, once with his wife on f. 65v and once alone on f. 105v (the full-page armorials on f. 3 are unfinished and were added, in any event, in the later fifteenth century).

Our codex appears specifically to have been painted by one of the Masters of the Gold Scrolls who illuminated a Book of Hours in the Kunstbibliothek in Berlin (MS Grisebach 4; Achten 1980, cat. 48). One of the ten full-page subjects in the much less richly illustrated Berlin codex also occurs in our manuscript. Of the nine, only our and the Berlin Men of Sorrows (ff. 220v and 61v, respectively) and Depositions of Christ (ff. 212v and 14v, respectively) hew closely to the same models. The Last Judgments in our book (f. 251v) and the Berlin Hours (f. 70v; Achten 1980, ill. 14) differ only in the addition of the Hell mouth in the Berlin representation. In the remaining six subjects, however, our painter studiously avoids compositional repetition. The Annunciations in our book (f. 116v) and in the Berlin Hours (f. 17v; Finke s.d., frontispiece), for example, present the same physiognomic types, the same haloes embellished with red rays, and the same charming detail of God the Father looking in on the scene through an aperture in the wall on the left. The two interiors, on the other hand, are largely different.

Likewise, the furnishings and fenestrations of Jerome’s study in our and the Berlin codex (ff. 307v and 122v, respectively) have been completely relocated and reimagined. In the depictions of Christ before Pilate in our codex (f. 200v) and in the Berlin Hours (f. 32v; Finke s.d., Abb. 4), Jesus is positioned differently and the settings have been subtly altered. Save the wattle fences that enclose the figures, our and the Berlin Arrest of Christ (ff. 195v and 44v, respectively) share few points of resemblance, and the Funeral Services (ff. 269v and 92v, respectively) are entirely different.

Both the present manuscript and the Berlin codex share similar border styles. While the frames of the Berlin miniatures are simply arched, however, the apices of ours are peaked, gabled, crocketed, and otherwise more inventively shaped; frequently those apices also house the figure of God the Father. Their tiny size notwithstanding, the landscapes in our codex are also surprisingly and delightfully deep, with middle grounds bisected by waterways and brightly roofed townscapes set atop distant hillocks.

The dense borders that adorn nearly every page are often inhabited by birds, animals, and figures, further enhancing the extraordinary richness of the pictorial program. While not all of the marginal figures on the pages with full-page miniatures relate to or comment on the subjects they enframe, there are many exceptions. In addition to those described under Illustrations below, these include the third laywoman who looks on from the outer margin at the monstranced host on f. 86v; the winged angel in the outer margin who holds a chalice to catch the Savior’s blood to the left of the Crucifixion (f. 92v); the mitred half-length hybrid with another gift of gold for the baby Jesus to the right of the Adoration of the Magi (f. 147v); the distressed angels in the outer and lower margins who witness Christ brought before Pilate (f. 200v); the doleful angels below and to the right of the Entombment of Christ (f. 216v); the two mourning clerics just beyond the Funeral Service (f. 269v); and the angel who holds the text that Jerome copies on f. 307v.

The compelling comparisons summarized here establish a distinct subgroup composed of the Berlin Hours and the present manuscript within the vast oeuvre of the Masters of the Gold Scrolls, which represents the dominant style in Bruges and West Flanders in the second quarter of the fifteenth century. Little advance has been made to date in sorting out the various artists, as the group provides such a convenient catch-all into which all manuscripts generically in this style are classed. Only through careful and complete analyses of the texts, the models for the illustrations, and the circumstances of production taken decade by decade over the forty-year span of activity of the artists can we hope to arrive at a better understanding of the actual identity and contribution of the Gold Scrolls illuminators in the history of Flemish manuscript illumination. Our manuscript, with its splendid and rich sequence of miniatures and borders, will occupy a central place in such a rewritten history.

OWNERSHIP: 1. Written ca. 1450 in Bruges, for male use (ff. 344v-347, 347-350v, and 350v-355), probably for the man represented on ff. 65v and 105v. - 2. Unidentified owner who had inserted the late 15th-century singleton (f. 3) with the never completed quartered armorials on f. 3v (quarters 1 and 4: or, a cross pattée fitchée at bottom point gules, between the four 1 and 4 a fleur-de-lis sable, 2 and 3 a rose heraldic lilac; quarters 2 and 3: empty). - 3. “De la Collection de M. Schlumberger Ribeauville” to right of “R / 1941 / Fors. No. 10:” (modern pencil notes on verso of ultimate back paper flyleaf). - 4. Bookplate of Madeleine and René Junod (inside front cover).

LITERATURE: Unpublished; compare Achten, Gerd. Das christliche Gebetbuch im Mittelalter, Berlin, 1980. - [Exhibition]. Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale, and Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Miniatures flamandes 1404-1482, eds. Bernard Bousmanne and Thierry Delcourt, Brussels and Paris, 2011, pp. 140-142. - Cardon, Bert. “The Illustrations and the Gold Scrolls Group, Typologische Tafeleren uit het Leven van Jesus [Typological scenes from the Life of Christ]: A Manuscript from the Gold Scrolls Group (Bruges, c. 1440) in the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, MS. Morgan 649,” Corpus of Illuminated Manuscripts from the Low Countries, i, ed. M. Smeyers, Leuven, 1985, pp. 119-204. – Dogaer, Georges. Flemish Miniature Painting in the 15th and 16th Centuries, Amsterdam, 1987, pp. 27-31. - Finke, Ulrich, ed. Katalog der mittelalterlichen Handschriften und Einzelblätter in der Kunstbibliothek, Berlin, s.d. [c. 1967]. – Smeyers, Maurits. Flemish Miniatures from the 8th to the mid-16th Century. The Medieval World in Parchment, Louvain, Davidsfonds, 1999. - Winkler, Friedrich. Die flämische Buchmalerei des XV.und XVI. Jahrhunderts, Leipzig, 1925 (repr. Amsterdam, 1978), pp. 25–7.

“Gold Scrolls Group” in the Dictionary of Art