Illuminated with 13 miniatures of singular quality by two great but quite distinct artists, it is not yet unravelled how the decoration of the manuscript originated. If and where both illuminators met or worked are still open questions. The first artist likely came from Italy, the second from the region of Amiens, in the North of France. The greatest gift of both artists is their ability to tell an entire story in one image.
The first Master (possibly the Master of W. 219) presumably was an itinerant painter, who originally came from Lombardy. He contributed two rich, ingenious miniatures. His style shows affinities to Northern Italian art, perhaps inspired by the painter and illuminator Michelino da Besozzo who worked - as did the Boucicaut Master - for the Duke of Milan (d. 1402). One of our illuminator's main talents is the depiction of realistic plants in different stages of blossom and maturity. He worked in the context of some of the best of French and Netherlandish illuminators. In the book at hand – especially in the stunning Lazarus miniature – he shows an unrivalled penchant for detail and narration. His two miniatures (he also painted the unusual Majestas Domini, the first miniature in the book) are among the most accomplished images he ever produced and may be part of his later oeuvre.
The remaining miniatures were realized by another, also very talented artist. This second illuminator seems to have come from the region of Amiens. His designs show similarities with those of the Master of the Collins Hours (Philadelphia Museum of Arts, ms. 45-64-4) while he was stylistically also influenced by one of Amiens’ foremost illuminators, the so-called Mansel Master (named after a manuscript of the Jean Mansel's Fleurs des Histoires (Brussels, RL, ms. 9231/32). Apparently, the artists had access to the same models and drawings. Moreover, they shared the method of frequently encircling the halos of their figures with tiny white dots and painting skies with clouds in liquid silver. However, there are also striking differences, for instance in the use of colours. In the Fauquier Hours, a strong green, a somewhat subdued red and powerful purple and dark blue prevail in this Master’s images.
Since the Calendar and the Office of the Virgin in our manuscript were designed for the liturgical use of Besançon, it is tempting to locate the artists at that time in the same region too. Furthermore, the Fauquier family, whose coat of arms is added to the illumination and whose name is attached to the manuscript, came from nearby Poligny. Etienne Fauquier (c. 1370-1429) was the first of the family to have their nobility confirmed by Philip the Bold (1401). As the patron saint Etienne is listed prominently in both the calendar and litany, his namesake Etienne Fauquier may have been the intended owner of this Book of Hours.
We know of strong family relations between Fauquier and Jean Chevrot (also of Poligny), bishop of Tournai and patron of the arts. He is recognized for his taste of fine books, many of which he has sent to Poligny. Both of these counselors to the Duke of Burgundy travelled constantly between east and west, and may have taken manuscripts with them to be decorated by artists working elsewhere.
The result is an intriguing melange of styles and a beautiful, albeit somewhat enigmatic oeuvre – which is an awe-inspiring and rewarding manuscript for bibliophiles snd scholars.
Read more about this manuscript in our Spotlight.