Two missing leaves from NkS 132 4°
Communication by Sophie Somers (Studiecentrum Vlaamse Miniaturisten in Leuven)
Two manuscript leaves showed up in the London Sotheby's sale last June 1999 (Lot 27), without any doubt originating from ms. NKS 132 4°. They are said to have come from an English private collection. The leaves were probably already missing from the manuscript since the late 18th or early 19th century, when the manuscript was arbitrarily rebound, before its acquisition by the Royal Library (according to Mr. P. Ringsted most probably between 1831 and 1850).
The two leaves are beautifully illuminated text pages, the late work of the so-called Master of Guillebert de Mets. They show the opening of Sext from the Hours of the Virgin and the opening of the Hours of the Cross, both reproduced here.
From the reconstruction of the contents of ms. NKS 132 4°, published by Erik Drigsdahl in 1995 (p.583-4), it already appeared that among other sections, the Sext in the Hours of the Virgin and the Hours of the Cross were entirely missing from this Horae. [See the reconstruction: NKS 132 4°] Moreover, in his interesting analysis of the liturgical use of ms. NKS 132 4°, Drigsdahl points out that its antiphon of Sext should be Rubum quem, by analogy with other known Books of Hours following the unidentified Office of the Virgin thus called "the False Use of Rome" (p.585). Preceding the first psalm on the opening page of Sext, indeed we find the antiphon Rubum quem being used!
The measurements and layout of the two single leaves (102x81mm.), the 15-line red ruling and the script with capitals touched in red, correspond to those of ms. NKS 132 4°. The border decoration of the two leaves is also found on the extant illuminated pages of ms. NKS 132 4°. Some of the characteristic similarities include the multicoloured style, with its recognizable broad 3-sided decorated baguettes (text-frames) and curving acanthus leaves sprouting from its corners, topped with interacting drolleries (including a jester illustrated here in detail, and a second grotesque figure pointing his lance at a dragon). The typical large acanthus flowers with golden centers surrounded by smaller flowers and strawberries, all attached to the curvilinear penwork around the pages, also appear in ms. NKS 132 4°.
The same is true for the secondary decoration, consisting of two gilded major initials painted over 6 or 7 lines, smaller 1 and 2-line initials and line fillers in gold leaf on blue and red grounds with white filigree. The marginal penwork with gold leaf foliage, attached to the 2-line decorated initials on the versos of both leaves also bear strong resemblance to ms. NKS 132 4°, as seen in the initial N opening the second psalm (123) of Sext reproduced here.
Stylistically, the closest analogies for those illuminated borders are to be found in a Book of Hours copied at Bois-Seigneur-Isaac on 22 april 1445, for Marguerite d'Escornaix, abbess of the Benedictine abbey of St. Gertrude at Nivelles in Brabant (Brussels, KB, ms. IV-1113). The iconography and style of the historiated initials of this Horae, as well as the miniatures of a second closely-related Book of Hours sold at Christie's London in June 1987 (Lot 266) (now lost), give us an idea of how the missing full-page miniatures which faced the borders of ms. NKS 132 4°, must have looked. The close stylistic relationship with the Nivelles hours provides a strong argument for the approximate dating of the slightly less elaborate ms. NKS 132 4°, around 1440-1445.