Before Breakfast?? Instructions for Weekday Prayers in a Venetian Dialect

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 22/52
Book of Hours for the Use of Rome, University of Pennsylvania, Ms. Codex 688, fol. 13r

The Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis project did not formally include manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania, which had already been digitized and made available on the OPenn repository several years ago. However, these manuscripts will soon be integrated within the BiblioPhilly browsing interface in an effort to produce a comprehensive digital resource for pre-modern manuscripts in the region. Preparations for the upcoming “Making the Renaissance Manuscript: Discoveries from Philadelphia Libraries” exhibition I am curating at the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts (February–May 2020) have provided an additional reason for looking more closely at some of Penn’s European manuscripts, which still have plenty of secrets to reveal. As many of us know, mere digitization does not equal discovery!

The compact Book of Hours that is our subject today, UPenn Ms. Codex 688, has perhaps evaded attention because it contains no secondary decoration, apart from a large initial D and some vinework on folio 13r which may well be later in date. The textual content of Italian Books of Hours – as distinct from their decoration – has received relatively little scholarly attention, though the situation is changing.1

Ms. Codex 688 is written in a fine humanist hand. It is a late example of a format and genre popular in Central and Northern Italy earlier in the fifteenth century. The text of the Calendar and the principal offices is in Latin, as is the case in the overwhelming majority of Books of Hours from all regions of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Europe. The Calendar contains saints venerated in Northern Italy generally, including Ambrose of Milan (7 December), Secundus of Asti (1 June), and Prosdocimus of Padua (7 November). Reflecting the increasing prevalence of vernacular prayer in the fifteenth century, towards the end of the book, after the Hours of the Holy Spirit (fols. 86r–128v), there are weekday prayers in Italian. This particularity had been noted without further elaboration in the the existing catalog record for the manuscript, and is not altogether surprising.

But what do these prayers actually consist of? They are in fact a set of devotions intended to be performed in front of a crucifix. This is a rather precise and unusual series of prayers for a Book of Hours, perhaps related to the fact that the book contains no illuminations.2 The prayers are also a reminder of how Books of Hours were often intended to be employed in concert with works in other media, in this case a sculpture. There is one prayer for each day of the week plus another for Palm Sunday, and each is prefaced by detailed instructions about the specific gestures to be made by the devotee while reciting the text.

Reading these instructions, we notice some distinct spellings and words that are not of the mainstream, Tuscan variant of Italian. For example, we read “Zuoba” and “Domenega” for Thursday and Sunday respectively instead of the habitual “giovedì” and “domenica”; “zonte le mane” instead of “giunte le mani” for joined hands; “quindexe” instead of “quindici” for the number fifteen, and so on. These unusual orthographies point to a Venetian dialect (here truly a regionally inflected variant of Italian as opposed to the more distinct Venetian language) as recorded in dictionaries such as Giuseppe Boerio’s Dizionario del Dialetto Veneziano.3 A few words seem closer to variants attested in the Milanese vernacular, in particular “morzada” for “extinguished,” which is an unusual spelling close to the “smorzada” recorded in Milan.4 On balance, though, it seems likely that the Book of Hours was produced in the Veneto, especially considering the presence of the first Bishop of Padua, Prodocimus, in the calendar, much rarer and more geographically specific than Saint Ambrose.

Equally fascinating is the attitude that the supplicant should take when pronouncing each prayer. On Palm Sunday, the prayers are to be said while looking up with joined hands:
Ms. Codex 688, fol. 129r

On Mondays, with hands crossed over the knees in memory of the flagellation:
Ms. Codex 688, fol. 129v

On Tuesdays, at the foot of the cross in the manner of Mary Magdalene:
Ms. Codex 688, fol. 130r

On Wednesdays, prostrate and face to the ground:
Ms. Codex 688, fol. 130v

On Thursdays, kneeling:
Ms. Codex 688, fol. 131r

On Fridays, the devotee is to recite the Pater Noster (Our Father) and Ave Maria (Hail Mary) five times, kissing each of Christ’s wounds once, in memory of the Crucifixion:
Ms. Codex 688, fol. 130r

On Saturday, prayers must be said while holding an extinguished candle (“candela morzada”) in memory of Christ’s death:
Ms. Codex 688, fol. 130r

On Sunday (“domenega”), the candle is to be lit as a symbol of his resurrection:
Ms. Codex 688, fol. 130r

For each day of the week, the prayers are to be said before breakfast (“avanti che tu manzi ne bevi”).  This unusual guide to prayer shows the extent to which such compact prayer books were intended to be used in concert with devotional images, especially when not otherwise illustrated. They also allow us to nuance and enrich the corpus of Italian Books of Hours, which is often considered as a monolithic block.


All’antica: Getting up-to-date with the Ancients

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 21/52

Commissione issued to Andrea Valier by Leonardo Loredan, 1502, Bethlehem, Lehigh University, Linderman Library, Codex 21, fol. 1r (all’antica frontispiece illuminated by the First Pisani Master)

It is always gratifying to learn that one’s own manuscript “discovery” has already been made. Knowing that other scholars have come to the same opinion independently helps to confirm one’s intuitions and demonstrates that traditional methodologies can indeed be reliable when studying Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts.

Such was the case with a damaged and somewhat faded, but still very beautiful, frontispiece to a Commissione or Venetian charter preserved among the twenty-five or so Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The Commissione, issued to Andrea Valier by Doge Leonardo Loredan (reigned 1501–1517) in 1502, concerns Valier’s duties, rights, and obligations as podestà or civilian administrator of Piran, an Istrian town in present-day Slovenia that was under Venetian control from 1283 to the extinction of the republic in 1797. The manuscript is part of a wider genre of Venetian administrative records that came to be transformed into luxurious showpiece copies.

I first encountered this manuscript during an initial visit to Lehigh’s Linderman Library in September of 2016. The refined style of the introductory miniature jumped out at me immediately. The pairs of escutcheon-bearing putti, crouching leopards, cowering fawns, and athletic satyrs all pointed to a work of some refinement. The pastel-toned aedicula, dangling male and female cameos, and figurative tympanum bearing a depiction of Orpheus showed that this was a work steeped in the so-called all’antica style, that selective revival of ancient forms so characteristic of humanist book production in Renaissance Italy. What is more, the illusionistic torn parchment effect applied to the text block, which is carefully shaded by the artist to suggest a ragged piece of parchment hanging from a classicizing structure, is something of a scholarly preoccupation of mine.1 We were clearly dealing with a work by a highly skilled Venetian or Paduan artist working in the ambit of Benedetto Bordone, the most prolific illuminator of such documents at the turn of the sixteenth century. And yet Bordone’s palette is generally much more garish in tone, with a thicker application of pigment. Perhaps this was the work of an artist slightly older than Bordone, closer in spirit to an earlier generation of masterful-but-anonymous Veneto-Paduan illuminators, namely the Master of the Putti, Master of the London Pliny, and Pico Master. In any case, the illustration was decidedly not “executed in a style which has been called the International Gothic,” as John C. Hirsh had stated in his valiant but not-quite-adequate guide to Lehigh’s manuscripts, written in 1970, when the state of research was far less advanced.2

About a year and a half after first seeing the manuscript, I was heartened to find the Commissione published (along with an excellent color reproduction) in Helena Szépe’s wonderful new book, Venice Illuminated.3 There, she attributed the frontispiece to the so-called First Pisani Master, so-named on account of two Aldine editions with Pisani heraldry, now in Manchester (Virgil, Opera, 1501; John Rylands Library, Spencer 3359) and London (Juvenal and Persius, Opera, 1501; British Library, C.4.g.10).4

Szépe’s book, which provides a much-needed synthesis of these documents that are at once numerous and poorly understood, also has the merit of shedding light on another little-known gem from a Philadelphia collection: the splendid Commissionne issued in 1517 by Leonardo Loredan to Paolo Nani, podestà and captain of the inland town of Treviso. The manuscript forms part of the Lawrence J. Schoenberg Collection at the University of Pennsylvania (LJS 57), but its flashiness is somewhat at odds with the rest of the collection. Upon first seeing its colorful frontispiece several years ago, I had a hunch that it might be by Bordone himself, an opinion that Szépe has thankfully seconded.5 The manuscript’s first page consists of an elaborate frame of all’antica ornamentation composed of silver-grey vases and shell gold volutes set against a deep blue background, which encapsulates a carmine-colored text cartouche and a rectangular miniature. The central image shows Saint Paul presenting a kneeling Nani to the enthroned Virgin and Child, a simplified version of large-scale compositions by contemporary Venetian painters, notably Giovanni Bellini (c. 1430–1516) and Vincenzo Catena (c. 1480–1531).   IMG_5720
Dogale issued in 1517 by Leonardo Loredan to Paolo Nani, 1517, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania, Lawrence J. Schoenberg Collection, LJS 57, fol. 1r (frontispiece showing Saint Paul presenting the kneeling Paolo Nani to the enthroned Virgin and Child, surrounded by a border of white and gold grisaille on blue, incorporating the lion of San Mark at the top and the Nani arms below); examining LJS 57 using MiScope (MISC) portable digital microscope at the Steven Miller Conservation Laboratory, University of Pennsylvania Libraries

This is a manuscript I know well, as I often use it in teaching. The brilliant colors of Bordone’s frontispiece bear witness to the high quality of pigments available to artists working in Venice, the European hub for the trade of paintstuffs at the turn of the sixteenth century. The work’s more impressionistic style and thicker application of paint herald a move away from the subtle, economical approach taken by the First Pisani Master in the earlier the Valier Commissione, and show just how much artistic styles can change during the reign of a single Doge.


The “Parliament of Heaven”: Tracking a Theatrical Iconography

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 20/52

Book of Hours, Use of Rouen, Philadelphia, Free Library of Philadelphia, Lewis E 126, fols. 14v–15r (miniatures showing the Procès de Paradis or Parliament of Heaven and the Annunciation)

A few weeks ago, we saw how an early-sixteenth-century manuscript illuminator, the so-called Master of the Entries of Francis I, could translate real-life, ephemeral tableaux vivants that he almost certainly witnessed, onto the manuscript page. Today, we will examine another theatrically-derived composition, known from elsewhere but not previously identified among Philadelphia’s manuscripts: the Procès de Paradis, or Parliament of Heaven.

This unusual image is found in the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Lewis E 126, a Book of Hours from Rouen that can be dated to the reign of the French king Louis XII (r. 1498–1514) on account of an inscription in the frame on folio 35v. Though it may be slightly later than the rest of the book, the dimidiated coat-or-arms on folio 37v was identified by Albert Van de Put as those of the Quinard family of Languedoc and Venot de Noisy of Burgundy and the Lyonnais,1 with Jean-Luc Deuffic more recently suggesting the more likely Normandy family of Vauquelin instead of Quinard. The miniatures in the book were produced by two distinct artists, but ours is identifiable with Robert Boyvin (another book in the Free Library, Lewis E 124, was illuminated by a close collaborator of his).2 Facing an image of the Annunciation, the miniature on folio 14v of our manuscript shows several figures in white-grey grisaille. The figures in the lower area, standing upon the ground, represent l’Église (the Church, in place of the habitual Truth) paired with Justice, and Miséricorde (Mercy) paired with Sapience (Wisdom). The four personifications are labelled below in gold lettering. In the middle is the Angel Gabriel. Above, the scene is surveyed by an isomorphic Trinity holding open the Book of Life, and surrounded by three Orders of Angels: seraphim, cherubim, and thrones.

Though other versions of the image existed earlier in the Middle Ages,3 this variant of the Procès de Paradis was inspired by the Mystère de la Passion, a mystery play by Arnoul Gréban that was performed widely in France during the fifteenth century.4 As an iconography, it has been well-studied.5 It occurs, for example, in late-fifteenth-century Parisian Books of Hours produced in the workshop of the Maître François, an illuminator tentatively identified with a certain François le Barbier the elder.6 In one example now in New York (The Morgan Library & Museum, MS M.73), dated to about 1475, the first four lines of text for the Hours of the Virgin divide the page in two, with the Annunciation (habitually the standalone image for this section of the Book of Hours) occurring below. In other cases, such as in this somewhat eccentric Parisian Book of Hours with miniatures by several different artists (The Morgan Library & Museum, MS M.179) the image has even replaced the Annunciation at the beginning of the Hours of the Virgin (fol. 38r), relegating it to Lauds! By the time our book was made, the layouts of Books of Hours were being modified from the start to allow for one or two full-page miniatures preceding the beginning of the text, which meant that the Annunciation could be accompanied by another scene such as the Procès de Paradis. Our collation model shows that this was the case for our book: the scribe has given the illuminator carte blanche, as it were, for the striking double miniature.

Book of Hours, Use of Paris, New York, The Morgan Library & Museum, MS M.73, fol. 7r (miniature for the beginning of the Hours of the Virgin showing the Procès de Paradis or Parliament of Heaven and the Annunciation)

The Procès de Paradis composition seems to have been introduced to Rouen (where our manuscript was made) by Jean Pichore, the prolific illuminator who also provided numerous designs for metalcut prints for Books of Hours.7 Pichore worked with the border decorator Jean Serpin, who also collaborated with Boyvin, our illuminator. A Book of Hours Pichore illuminated around 1500, now in the Vatican Library (Barb. Lat. 487), shows the Procès de Paradis facing the Annunciation, as in our book. An example of Pichore’s broadly disseminated metalcut, from a hand-colored, printed Book of Hours at the University of Kansas, shows very close similarities to the earlier manuscript version. Other manuscript illuminators active in Rouen, such as the Master of Philippe of Guelders, used somewhat different compositions (San Marino, Huntington Library, HM1101, fol. 19v).
Book of Hours, Use of Rome, Rome, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Barb. Lat. 487, fols. 23v–24r (miniatures showing the Procès de Paradis or Parliament of Heaven and the Annunciation)

Guillaume Anabat for Germain Hardouin, Book of Hours, Use of Rome, Paris, 1505, Lawrence, University of Kansas, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, Summerfield C65 (hand-colored metalcuts showing the Procès de Paradis or Parliament of Heaven and the Annunciation)

Lewis E 126, fol. 14v (detail of miniature showing the Procès de Paradis or Parliament of Heaven)

Was our illuminator perhaps inspired by Pichore’s images, either in manuscript or print? As you can see, our miniature differs in important ways from both Pichoresque images: the female pairs of Church and Justice and Mercy and Wisdom do not embrace, but seem instead to debate the finer points of theology (counting fingers was a widespread gesture denoting scholarly dispute at the time).8 Another miniature by our Boyvin, also showing the Procès du Paradis and dated to 1502, shows a much greater similarity to Pichore’s image. Indeed, it is directly derived from it (Paris, Artcurial, 1 December 2014, lot 105, fol. 25v). Moreover, the colorless grisaille of our manuscript’s figures seems unusual.9 Was Boyvin simply reacting to an uncolored, printed image he saw, or was this a more deliberate choice?

Book of Hours, Use of Rouen, Paris, Artcurial, 1 December 2014, lot 105, fol. 25v (miniature showing the Procès de Paradis or Parliament of Heaven)

Overall, do the subtle differences found in our manuscript inflect the meaning of the composition? Might Boyvin have been referring to particular aspects of allegorical mystery plays being performed at the time in Rouen, or is he merely transmitting another pre-existing image? More research into the artist’s immediate context might yield additional answers.


A Mineralogist’s “Sword in the Stone”

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 19/52

Choirbook, Italy (Siena?), c. 1300, Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1883.53, fol. 247r and Neroccio de’ Landi, Panel with Saints Christina of Bolsena(?), Catherine of Alexandria, Jerome, and Galganus, c. 1470, Phipadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, John G. Johnson Collection, 1917, cat. 1169 (detail of Saint Galganus)

Though the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s collection of Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts is best known for the lavish codices received from the Philadelphia collectors Philip S. Collins and Mary Shell Collins in 1945, it possesses two items that came to the museum much closer to the year of its foundation, 1876. At the time, the institution was known as the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art, before being renamed the Pennsylvania Museum of Art in 1929 (it would only acquire its current name a decade later). The first item is a Dutch Prayer Book received in 1882 (accession number 1882‑983), with no known prior provenance. The other book, received the following year, is a hefty but largely unadorned choirbook given to the museum by Clarence S. Bement, a Philadelphia philanthropist best known for his unparalleled collection of rare minerals (now mostly preserved at the Museum of Natural History in New York)!1 At least four other books in the Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis project, including the famous Lewis Psalter, were once in Bement’s collection.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art choirbook is notably less lavish than other manuscripts owned by Bement, which is perhaps why he gifted it to the fledgling museum rather than selling it on through A.S.W. Rosenbach or another local book dealer. There are, however, some quite beautiful initials that are worth reproducing here. Each of these decorated letters makes use of the three primary colors.

While the style of the script and these penwork initials suggest Italian work of circa 1300 or a little later, the choirbook is liturgically fairly nondescript. Nevertheless, a short chant on the final folio, added early on in the book’s history on three extra blank staffs at the end of the volume (and a fourth added in drypoint), is dedicated to Saint Galganus. As with the rest of the volume, it accords roughly with a date of around 1300, and can be compared to examples such as a late-thirteenth-century Gradual from San Pantaleone, Pieve a Elici, near Lucca (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, NAL 2605), listed in the Nota quadrata project.2 The text itself reads:

Ora pro nobis beate Galgane, ut digni efficiamur p[er]mi[s]/

sionibus Christi. evovae. Sancte Galgane confes/

sor Christi et conptemptor seculi deprecare Christum

famulos tuos et semp[er] esse devotos. evovae.

As far as I can tell, this is a unique prayer. It can be (roughly) translated into English as follows:

Pray for us, blessed Galganus, that we may be made worthy of Christ’s forgiveness. Holy Galganus, confessor of Christ, eternally entreat your servants to be devout to Christ.

The abbreviation “evovae” or “euouae,” used twice, is a notational device that occurs in Gregorian chant. It represents the musical setting of the vowels found in the words “saeculorum amen” at the end of the Gloria Patri doxology.

This is an image of fol. 247r from Philadelphia Museum of Art Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs 1883‑53, Illuminated Choral Manuscript (Tuscany?, Italy, 1300).
PMA, 1883.53, fol. 247r (detail of chant to San Galgano)

Galgano Guidotto (1148–1181), better known as Saint Galganus, was a young Tuscan knight who became venerated after his death on account of his spiritual visions. The most famous of these is associated with the tale of The Sword in the Stone. As his hagiography recounts, Galganus experienced a vision of Christ and the Twelve Apostles on the hill of Montesiepi. Following this event, he was compelled to erect a cross but had no suitable materials except for his sword. He thrusted his weapon into the ground, whereupon it became fused with the rock and impossible for anyone to remove. A round chapel was built around Galgano’s immovable sword, which still survives today. A large Cistercian monastery, today in ruins, was also erected nearby at the beginning of the thirteenth century. Galgano was widely venerated in the area around Siena in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and many images record him holding his famous attribute.3 The specificity of Galgano’s cult helps narrow our localization of the PMA’s choirbook to the region around Siena.

Perhaps the book’s more recent owner, the mineralophile Bement, acquired the manuscript because he appreciated the potential link to that most lithic of myths, the Sword in the Stone.
Domenico Beccafumi, Saint Galgano, 1511–1512, Siena, Pinacoteca Nazionale, and Saint Galganus’ Sword, Montesiepi province of Siena (detail)

The nave of the ruined Cistercian abbey of San Galgano, Montesiepi, province of Siena


A Book of Hours from Renaissance Lyon, with miniatures by a Master of Ceremonies

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 18/52 Book of Hours, Use of Rome, Bethlehem, PA, Lehigh University, Linderman Library, Codex 18, fol. 1r (large miniature of the Arrest of Christ and bas-de-page vignette showing Judas Receiving the Thirty Pieces of Silver)

Among the trove of great manuscripts from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, are several richly illuminated Books of Hours. One of these, Lehigh Codex 18, is particularly interesting because of the distinctive style of its elaborate miniatures, which indicate that the book was produced in France, likely in Lyon, in the second decade of the sixteenth century. As the thirteen large miniatures are particularly charming (and totally unpublished!), it seems appropriate to display them in their entirety for the reader. These miniatures are surrounded by rather inventive two-level all’antica architectural frames painted in shell gold (gold powder mixed into a binding medium, as opposed to gold leaf), with the three lines of intervening text transformed into illusionistic scrolls or banderoles. The miniature of the Arrest of Christ, shown above, is the first of this type within the book. It follows the vignette-illustrated calendar and introduces the Passion According to Saint John. Next come the miniatures traditionally found in the Hours of the Virgin.
Lehigh Codex 18, fols. 21r (large miniature of the Annunciation and bas-de-page vignette showing Musician Angels) and 33v (large miniature of the Visitation with a Handmaiden and bas-de-page vignette showing Joseph and Mary traveling with a Handmaiden)
Lehigh Codex 18, fols. 41v (large miniature of the Nativity and bas-de-page vignette showing Traveling Shepherds) and 45r (large miniature of the Annunciation to the Shepherds and bas-de-page vignette showing Two Shepherds Speaking)
Lehigh Codex 18, fols. 50v (large miniature of the Presentation in the Temple and bas-de-page vignette showing Two Prophets) and 53v (large miniature of the Flight into Egypt and bas-de-page vignette showing the Miracle of the Wheat Field)
Lehigh Codex 18, fol. 59r (large miniature of the Coronation of the Virgin and bas-de-page vignette showing Musician Angels)

We then have the two habitual miniatures for the Hours of the Cross and Hours of the Holy Spirit.
Lehigh Codex 18, fols. 71r (large miniature of the Carrying of the Cross and bas-de-page vignette showing the Flagellation) and 74r (large miniature of Pentecost and bas-de-page vignette showing Saint John the Evangelist and the Virgin Meet a Group of Men)

A striking miniature of Bathsheba illustrates the Penitential Psalms.
Lehigh Codex 18, fol. 77r (large miniature of David and Bathsheba with an Attendant and bas-de-page vignette showing David and Bathsheba with Onlookers)

The “Three Living and Three Dead” iconography prefaces the Office of the Dead.
Lehigh Codex 18, fol. 91r (large miniature of the Three Living and Three Dead and bas-de-page vignette showing the Raising of Lazarus)

Finally, the first suffrage, dedicated to the Trinity, is illustrated with a somewhat unusual depiction of an isomorphic God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, surmounted by a shared, lobed crown.
Lehigh Codex 18, fol. 123v (large miniature with isomorphic Trinity Holding an Orb and bas-de-page vignette showing Musical Angels)

Who painted these minute masterpieces from the early sixteenth century? While we might not be able to identify the person by name conclusively, the artist’s hand is identifiable in a large corpus of illuminated manuscripts. The miniatures in our book are practically identical in style to those of the so-called Master of the Entry of Francis I, the anonymous illuminator so-named after a manuscript now in Wolfenbüttel, Germany, and which contains fascinating illustrations of temporary “tableaux vivants” set-up by the citizens of Lyon throughout the city to greet the French King in July of 1515 as he embarked on his first military campaign to Italy (Herzog August Bibliothek, Cod. Guelf. 86.4 Extrav.).1 These ephemeral civic displays were an important part of late Medieval and Renaissance ceremonial culture, and high-ranking artists were often called upon to assist in planning and organization.2 The artist was active in the city of Lyon from about 1485 to 1515. While he remains anonymous, Elizabeth Burin suggested that he may be identifiable with the documented scribe and illuminator Antoine Pingaud.3 Tania Lévy, on the other hand, posited that he might be one and the same with the glass painter Jean Ramel.4 To-date, some twenty-five manuscripts containing his work have been identified, including thirteen books of hours. Miniatures in a further Book of Hours, currently with Les Enluminures, may be by members of his workshop. The Lehigh manuscript represents a new and exciting addition to this substantial body of work.
Wolfebüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, Cod. Guelf. 86.4 Extrav., fols. 7v–8r (double full-page miniature showing La Nef du Cerf-Volant)

To get to know the artist’s style, it is best to look first at his eponymous manuscript. The most memorable image from the Wolfenbüttel codex extends across two pages and shows a magnificent “Ship of State” in the waters of the Rhone, an allegory for Francis’ reign. On the left, Charles III of Bourbon is astride the winged stag with his flaming sword, leading the warship, which is in turn commanded by the young king from the forecastle.5 Riding as passengers are the Queen, Claude of France, and her sister Renée. Steering the ship from the poop deck is the Marshal of France, Jean Jaquez. A divine putto, Zephyr, fills the sails with a bellows from the crow’s nest. Obviously, this remarkable image is highly specific and doesn’t lend itself easily to stylistic comparison. But other images within the book allow for a closer comparison to the somewhat more commonplace iconographies found within the Lehigh Book of Hours.
Cod. Guelf. 86.4 Extrav., fols. 11v (full-page miniature showing Le Clos de France) and 18r (full-page miniature showing Le Baptème de Clovis)

A detailed comparison of our image of the Trinity with the blessing God the Father from folio 18r of the Wolfenbüttel manuscript, for example, shows an identical approach the facial construction, with straight eyebrows, a long vertical stroke to shade the right side of the nose, askance eyes, beards underscored by a black line on one side only, etc…. Note the identical design of the emanating gold rays as well. Clearly, we are dealing with the same painter, perhaps only a few years apart.

HyperFocal: 0   00043
Lehigh Codex 18, fol. 123v (detail), and Cod. Guelf. 86.4 Extrav., fol. 18r (detail)

Another stylistic comparison, this time with a Book of Hours by the Master of the Entry of Francis I today in San Marino (Huntington Library, HM 1181), shows marked similarities between the two Annunciations. While they do not follow exactly the same model (our manuscript shows a kneeling rather than sitting Virgin Mary), the similarities are indisputable, right down to the colors of the floor tiles, the textiles of the canopy, the gold highlights on the virgin’s robe, the angel Gabriel’s brocade, and the view through to the green space beyond. Note also how the stylish frame in the San Marino Annunciation echoes elements from several of the frames in the Lehigh book, albeit in a different combination.

HyperFocal: 0   002764A
Lehigh Codex 18, fol. 21r, and San Marino, Huntington Library, HM 1181, fol. 17r

Though we know much about the artist’s œuvre, if not his name, Lehigh Codex 18 provides no secure evidence as to the identity of its original owner. Though the book’s much more recent red velvet binding is decorated with elaborate filigree mounts incorporating the niello arms of the great Italian scholar, poet, and prelate Cardinal Pietro Bembo (1470-1547), these are likely a spurious nineteenth-century addition. Thus, the manuscript and its miniatures provide a good illustration of how patient art-historical connoisseurship and stylistic analysis can often help us understand a context that is all but unrecoverable through other means.
Lehigh Codex 18, upper and lower covers with filigree mounts and niello arms of Cardinal Pietro Bembo


The Early History of the Lewis Psalter

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 17/52

Gallican Psalter with Canticles, Litany, and Prayers (he Lewis Psalter), Philadelphia, Free Library of Philadelphia, Lewis E 85, fols. 1v–2r (historiated initial B with King David Playing the Harp and King David Slaying Goliath; blank page with later prayer to Saint Martial)

One of the glorious treasures of Philadelphia is the so-called Lewis Psalter (Free Library of Philadelphia, Lewis E 185), produced in Paris in the first half of the thirteenth century, likely between around 1225 and 1230. Digitizing and cataloguing this sumptuous book anew was a real thrill, made much easier by the existence of Elizabeth A. Peterson’s excellent Ph.D. dissertation which describes the content all 150 of the manuscript’s historiated Psalm initials (the manuscript is in fact one of only eight surviving French manuscripts from the period to include illustrations for every psalm).1

Unlike some of its better-documented sister manuscripts, however, very little is known about the original user(s) and subsequent owners of the Lewis Psalter. Some later inscriptions within the book might help provide a clue as to where the book was prior to its reappearance in the nineteenth century in the collection of Henry Gee Barnard of Yorkshire (1789–1858). To begin with, an inscription on folio 2r, previously described as a prayer to Saint Martial, written in a what looks like a late-sixteenth-century cursive hand, reads:

Sanctus Martialis discipulus Chri[sti] virgo.

Crux enim domini armatura v[est]ra invicta contra satanam galea / custodiens caput. Lorica protegens pectus, clipeus tela maligni / repellens; gladius iniquitatem et angelicas insidias p[ervers]sae potestat[is] / sibi propinquare sinens nullo modo. Hoc solo signa celestis victoria / data est nobis et per crucem baptisma sanctificatum est

or, translated roughly into English:

Saint Martial, virgin disciple of Christ

The Cross of our Lord is the invincible armor against Satan: a helmet protecting the head, chainmail protecting the chest, a shield repelling evil darts, a sword warding off all approach of iniquity and of the perverse power of evil angels. This, the only sign of celestial victory, is given to us and is blessed by the baptism of the Cross.

This is an image of fol. 2r from Free Library of Philadelphia Lewis E 185, Lewis Psalter (Paris, France, 1220 - 1245).
Lewis E 85, fol. 2r (with detail of inscription of prayer to Saint Martial)

This unusual text is not in fact a prayer to Saint Martial, the venerated third-century Bishop of Limoges known as the “Apostle of Aquitaine,” but instead an excerpt from Saint Martial’s apocryphal letter to the people of Bordeaux. The text of this letter is preserved in a twelfth-century manuscript from Limoges now at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (ms. lat. 5296A), with the passage discussing the cross appearing on folio 38v. Of course, our early anotator might have been familiar with this passage through another source. The text was widely available in print by the early seventeenth century at the latest.

Vita sancti Martialis, discipuli Christi: authore Aureliano, successore illius atque discipulo. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, ms. lat. 5296A, fol. 38v (Saint Martial’s letter to the people of Bordeaux, with detail of excerpt concerning the Cross)

Another note, on folio 32r of the psalter, is written in the same hand: “Psalmodia, carmen est celeste: et eos a quibus colitur sedulo, ex hominibus in angelos transfigurat,” or, “the recitation of the Psalms is a heavenly song, and transforms those who carefully recite them from men into angels.” The author of the short fragment of text is Louis de Blois (1506–1566), an influential sixteenth-century Flemish Benedictine mystic. The rather lofty phrase stems from one of de Blois’ best known works, the Sacellum animae fidelis or Sanctuary of the Faithful Soul (Louis of Blois, Sacellum animae fidelis, 1575, p. 333).

Perhaps the presence of this quote alongside the excerpt from Saint Martial will one day help clarify this great manuscript’s obscure early history. In any event, it would seem to confirm the manuscript’s presence in a Benedictine institution in the sixteenth century. Given these two pieces of evidence, might we imagine that the book was among the possessions of the Benedictine Monastery of Saint Martial in Limoges, dissolved in the wake of the French Revolution? Raymond Gaucelm, whose abbacy lasted from 1225 to 1245, was known to have been responsible for enriching the foundation’s treasury considerably2 as well as embarking on ambitious renovation campaigns, and his dates would accord perfectly with those assigned to the Lewis Psalter. Could he have been responsible for commissioning the Psalter, or at least bringing it from Paris to the Limousin? Given the fragility of the evidence, this remains merely a hypothetical, though tantalizing, suggestion. More research into Saint Martial’s early library inventories, which do survive, might provide more information.

This is an image of fol. 32r from Free Library of Philadelphia Lewis E 185, Lewis Psalter (Paris, France, 1220 - 1245).

Lewis E 85, fol. 32r (with detail of inscription with extract from Louis de Blois)

Finally, there is additional evidence to suggest that the Lewis Psalter was used liturgically early in its life, a finding that makes it more likely to have been housed within a monastic institution, rather than having been owned by a high-ranking aristocrat. Written in a different fifteenth- or sixteenth-century hand, a prayer simply entitled “Oratio” on fol. 191v, not previously identified, in fact consists of the Collects for the fifth and seventh Sundays after Trinity. The final word, misinterpreted as the proper name “J. Credor,” is simply the incipit of the Credo:

This is an image of fol. 191v from Free Library of Philadelphia Lewis E 185, Lewis Psalter (Paris, France, 1220 - 1245).
Lewis E 85, fol. 191v (with detail of inscription with Collects for the fifth and seventh Sundays after Trinity)

While by no means conclusive, we can hope that the identification and transcription of these later additions might help shed light on the history of this wonderful book.