Price € 220'000,- (VAT not included).
The responsibility for painting the large series of miniatures highlighting the various sections of this Book of Hours was divided by quires among a group of three or four illuminators working in early 15th century Paris.
The first artist, Master A was responsible for the ‘crucial image’ in the book, that is the Annunciation which introduces the Office of the Virgin. This excellent work can be linked to a painter called the Master of the Coronation of the Virgin, after a small tondo painting in Berlin (Gemäldegalerie, Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Inv. No. 1648). In the present Book of Hours, he also painted the Pentecost that precedes the Hours of the Holy Ghost. In both miniatures, his manner of characterising his figures with clearly discernible, vigorous brush strokes and shadings stands out.
Although Master A may have been the leading artist in the workshop, another hand, Master B, was responsible for the three highest quality images, the Nativity, Christ in Majesty, and Crucifixion. The Nativity shows Netherlandish influence in its natural intimacy. Preferring strong, complementary contrasts in colours, this illuminator was a specially gifted artist, who imaginatively situated the night-time Nativity in the open air, in the middle of a robust landscape. A luxury bed serves as resting place for Mary who lovingly cuddles her baby that sucks on his finger. In the Christ in Majesty miniature, the illuminator skilfully plays with foreground and background, putting a rhomboid field with tessellated ground and chequered floor, which holds the main figure, against a rectangle with a blue, starry sky, with the symbols of the Evangelists, thus creating two layers of reality. The work of Master C appears more conservative and restrained.
The first owner or commissioner of the prayer book at hand may have had links to Brittany, judging from the litany, since it features saints who were particularly celebrated in that duchy. The attention devoted to St. Catherine may indicate a relationship to the Parisian convent of St. Catherine-du-Val-des-Écoliers, originally founded by guardsmen of the king. The 'sergents d'armes de la garde du roi' had made the church into the seat of their fraternity where many of them found their last resting place. The buildings fell into disrepair since the French Revolution and were demolished (today: Place Marché St. Catherine).