The Virtuosity of Flemish Manuscript Illuminators Radiates in this Salisbury Book of Hours
Friday, September 24th 2021
La Gazette Drouot, Philippe Dufour
Flanders, c. 1500, Hours of Salisbury (Horae beatae Mariae Virginis secundum usum Sarum), manuscript on fine vellum, large octavo folio (20.3 x 13.5 cm/8 x 5.31 in), 137 leaves with 17 lines per page, 19th-century velvet binding with metal clasps.
The art of the miniature reached such heights in 15th-century Flanders that the period be could be dubbed the golden age of illuminated manuscripts. Works of the Ghent-Bruges School, like this Salisbury Book of Hours (Book of Hours for the Use of Sarum), stand out among its refined creations.
Influenced by easel painting, illuminated manuscripts underwent unprecedented changes in 1470s Flanders. Illustrators turned away from still-medieval motifs to embrace a new, free, naturalistic style. Large miniatures, now paintings in their own right, mingled landscapes, flowers, fruits, animals and portraits within the frame. One of the movement’s main pioneers was the Master of the Dresden Prayer Book, who was active until 1515. This prolific artist inserted the nuanced pastel ornamentation, colored backgrounds and even trompes-l'œil characterizing the Ghent-Bruges School into the margins of Books of Hours. These painted manuscripts became famous and were exported throughout Western Europe. A dazzling example is this Book of Hours from Salisbury (Sarum)—whose title, in Latin, is Horae beatae Mariae Virginis secundum usum Sarum—a manuscript on vellum whose illuminator remains anonymous. It belongs to a small body of Flemish works made for English nobles in the Wiltshire cathedral town.