Basel, Switzerland – Greatness is not hard to find in the manuscripts and early printed books of Rare books by Dr. Jörn Güntheryet the highlights of the collection are coming TEFAF Maastricht this month of June exceeds the usual level of extravagance in the decoration of books. Returning to Maastricht after a two-year hiatus, the Basel gallery presents a range of delights, from 13th-century devotional volumes to richly illuminated French history books and a superb range of Books of Hours.
The Ancient History to Caesar and Facts of the Romans is an immense text befitting the delicate and precise decoration of this current manuscript, the first of the highlights of TEFAF Maastricht. With 76 column miniatures and two half-page frontispieces – one with six and one with four multi-part miniatures – this work is fit for a king and may well have been intended for one. The arrangement of the text and the style of the decoration closely resemble the great historical works written and illustrated for King Charles V (r. 1364-1380), while having close links with a work belonging to Jean, duc de Berry. Together with the royal decoration of the order, these facts suggest that the present work was created for someone very high in the king’s court, if not for the king himself, at least for his brother, the Duke of Berry. .
The text traces the histories of Assyria, Troy, Thebes, Greece and Rome, beginning with the story of Genesis and ending with the death of Caesar. Moreover, this manuscript belongs to a group of 15 in which the history of Rome was developed in a long biography of Julius Caesar, known as Facts of the Romans.
Similarly, the Missal for the use of the diocese of Soissons (France, 1250-1275) is an example of superlative decoration, for, with its 19 large decorated initials, 22 historiated initials and 1 full-page miniature, it far exceeds the ornamentation of most known missals of this period. Missals were made to be read at the altar during Mass by the presiding priest and were therefore seen by few people, and rarely contained large numbers of miniatures.
A spectacular example of French work from this period, the illuminations by master Vincent in this volume combine Cambrian and Parisian influences, ensuring that the appeal of the codex endured throughout his life, like the traces of its binding in the library of Charles – Joseph de Ligne, Prince of Ligne, attests. De Ligne, who bounced the book and incised his gilded arms on the cover, was an important figure in the political landscape of the 18th and early 19th centuries: he traveled on a diplomatic mission with Catherine the Great and corresponded with Voltaire, Rousseau and Goethe. .
The border around the large Crucifixion miniature is made of spirally twisted ivy tendrils in which two human-faced demi-creatures and two dragons bask. The style of this border betrays another hand, which adds to the precise and meticulous style of Master Vincent. Faces are made expressive with light use of red pigment and scenes are filled with movement. Overall this masterful work is of great character and variation, with a constant blend of humor and piety throughout its decoration.
The Hours of Arenberg (Flanders, Bruges, c. 1500) is a later, but no less magnificent, example of richly ornamented manuscripts for devotional purposes. With 16 full-page, full-border miniatures and 24 wonderfully decorated calendar pages depicting day-to-day medieval life, this small but mighty gem hides a wealth of delights within its pages. Once housed in the prestigious library of the Dukes of Arenberg from the 19th to mid-20th century, this Book of Hours features extravagant miniatures inspired by the heyday of Flemish panel painting by Jan van Eyck, Hugo van der Goes, Rogier van der Weyden, and others.
Scholars have recognized in the imaginative artist of this book a specific hand that collaborated with the Master of the Dresden Prayer Book and is known today as the Master of Jannecke Bollengier. With the effect of trompe l’oeil in the borders and the seasonal scenes on which the calendar is set, the illustration of this work is as exacting and structured as a series of individual paintings, offering a fascinating insight into life. medieval, as well as its artistic styles.