Joanna Frońska Katarzyna Płonka-Bałus, The Catalogue of Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts and Miniatures in the Princes Czartoryski Library and Museum

A comparative analysis of the illumination of the Book of Hours, MS Czart. 3025 I, formerly attributed to the Master of Mary of Burgundy and currently linked to the circle of Ghent illuminators called the “Ghent Associates” and to the Master of the Berlin Prayer Book (Kupferstischkabinett, H 78 B 12), deserves the first mention. The author, who is currently working on a monograph  devoted to this manuscript,1   identified with precision the participation of individual artists in the decoration of the codex. She also presented a number of very suggestive artistic and iconographic analogies that put the illuminations of this Book of Hours into a broader context of the Ghent painting of the 1480s. These are, among others, the juxtaposition of the nocturne "St. Julian the Hospitaller and his wife ferry Christ across the river in a boat” from St. Julian’s legend with the miniature of St. Amalberga in the Book of Hours from St. Peter’s Abbey in Ghent (Oxford, Bodleian Library, Douce 223); and the comparison of “David in Prayer” with a corresponding illustration in the Rookloster Breviary (British Library, Additional 18863). An aspect of the codex that still requires explanation is the script. Its clearly southern (Italian or Spanish?) character brings to mind the manuscripts produced in the Netherlands for the members of the Spanish royal family, such as the Breviary of Isabella of Castile (British Library, Additional 18851), presented to the queen by her ambassador to the court of Maximilian I, Francisco de Rojas. The riddle of the Czartoryski Book of Hours, however, is not solved by the first owner’s nationality, who, as the author proves on the basis of the calendar and litany, came from the territory of the Empire.

The description of the Prayer Book in Middle Dutch, MS Czart. 2949 I, is also noteworthy. This manuscript, whose decoration the author convincingly attributes to the Master of the Book of Hours of Margriet Uutenham, was until recently  associated with  Haarlem.2 New research linked the Master of Margriet Uutenham with a group of artists active  at the Augustinian convent of Bethany in Arnhem in 1470-1480.3 The author's analysis of the manuscript's liturgical content confirms  its Arnhem use and, more importantly, provides additional evidence linking the Master of Margriet Uutenham with the convent of “Bethany.”

One of the most interesting manuscripts in  the Czartoryski collection, and by far  the best known to the author is undoubtedly the Vita Christi [et] la vengeance de Ihesu Christ Nostre Seigneur (MS Czart. 2919 V). It is the oldest copy  in a group of three very close manuscripts, produced between 1478 and ca. 1480/85 in Ghent for the members of the Burgundian court, Guillaume de Ternay (the Cracow copy), Louis de Gruuthuse (Bibliothèque nationale de France, ms. fr. 181), and a still anonymous aristocrat, probably from the circle of Margaret of York (British Library, Royal 16 G. iii).4 The London copy was signed by the prominent Ghent scribe and editor David Aubert. The similarity of script, layout, articulation of text and decoration of borders in the other two codices also seems to indicate broadly the involvement  of Aubert's workshop. Thomas Kren and Scot McKendrick attributed the illuminations of all three manuscripts to the Master of the Flemish Boethius, named by them after the Dutch copy of De Consolatione philosophiae (Bibliothèque nationale de France, ms. Neerl. 1).5 However, Płonka-Bałus's comparative research, the result of which is summarized in the present catalogue entry, lead her to question this attribution and to identify  a distinct artist, the Master of Guillaume’a de Ternay, as their author. Whether we choose to agree with that opinion or not, this attribution points out a striking formal diversity of illuminations attributed to the Master of the Flemish Boethius, which is visible even within a single manuscript associated with this artist. For example, a comparison of miniatures decorating the London copy of the Vita Christi shows at least two different methods of painting the complexion. The skin of the people depicted in the frontispiece miniature (fol. 8) is fair, almost pale grey; while the faces of the figures in the Interrogation of Christ (fol. 141), are clearly darker and  fleshy. The latter feature is definitely closer to a visibly stronger modelling of faces in the miniature illustrating the coronation of Baldwin in  another cycle of illustrations attributed to the Ghent artist (Livre d’Eracles, London, British Library, Royal 15. E and fol. 259), and to a treatment of flesh tones in the illuminations of the Cracow manuscript. Without denying the indisputable differences within the corpus of works attributed to the Master of the Flemish Boethius, it is necessary to stress that a number of recurring features make those illuminations fairly  close. These are first of all: a common physiognomy of thin figures with melancholic expression on their faces, almost devoid of emotions, , as well as several recurrent motives and iconographic schemes, such as the image of a scribe working on his codex in the miniatures opening all three copies of the Vita Christi. The observations of Katarzyna Płonka-Bałus provoke a series of questions related to the authorship of the miniatures attributed to the Master of Boethius: are they the work of one, larger workshop? Or were they perhaps made by a group of two or three independent artists using a very similar stylistic idiom? And if so, what was the character of the cooperation between them and other contemporary  workshops in Ghent and Bruges like? The revision of the largely unstudied oeuvre of the Master of the Flemish Boethius seems overdue.

The so-called Book of Hours of Władysław IV Vasa (MS czart. 2945 II) is yet another manuscript requiring further research. In its present state, the prayerbook is completely depleted of its once abundant decoration. Fortunately, a portion of miniatures excised from  the manuscript before its arrival to Poland, sometime in the 17th century, has been identified in two European collections, the British Library in London and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The illuminations have been attributed to the workshop of Simon Marmion (ca. 1425-1489), an illuminator active in Amiens and Valenciennes, and dated to the late 1460s.6 The author notes that the manuscript's calendar was probably adjusted for the patron from the surroundings of Amiens, the city in which the illuminator began his long career. The extant miniatures allow for at least a partial reconstruction of the iconographic program of the book. The nine images, now in the British Library, include: the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, the Flight into Egypt, The Raising of Lazarus, David in Prayer and four leaves with the portraits of the Evangelists (Additional 71117), all seven formerly in the collection of Thomas Harris (1908-1964), and the Martyrdom of Saint Stephen (Additional 79764), purchased individually in 2004. The remaining four miniatures, now in the Rijksmuseum, depict: the Annunciation to the Shepherds, the Adoration of the Magi, the Crucifixion and the Martyrdom of Saint Apollonia (nos. 70.44, 70.45v, 70.46r, 61.100v). A detailed description of the manuscript content, included in the catalogue entry, suggests that it originally  comprised at least 15 illustrations.7 This number should be complemented with four miniatures portraying the Evangelists  illustrating the Gospel excerpts that were usually inserted either between the calendar and the prayers to the Virgin or directly preceded the text of the Hours. Although in the present manuscript the texts of the Gospels were cut out completely, we may assume that they preceded the Hours of the Virgin (between ff.44 and 45). It is difficult to estimate the number of miniatures originally illustrating the suffrages. Only two of them have survived to this day: Saint Stephen and Saint Apollonia. Probably due to a mistake of a modern bookbinder, the prayers to the Saints were divided into two groups (fol. 133-140 and 232-248), both of which show now some missing parts of the text. Relatively recent acquisitions of the miniatures excised from the manuscript by the British Library (1992 and 2004) give some hope of finding its further missing illuminations in unpublished private collections, and, perhaps, of  at least a digital  reunification of the book.

1 K. Płonka-Bałus, Legacy of the Master of Margriet Uutenham. Ghent Associates and illuminations MS. Czart. 3025 I (working title)

2 B. Miodońska, K. Płonka-Bałus, op. cit., catalogue no. 23.

3 Genie ohne Namen: der Meister des Bartholomaus-Altars, ed. Rainer Budde and Roland Krischel, Köln 2001, catalogue no. 7-12.

4 This manuscript was probably included in the English Royal Collection during the reign of Edward IV, however it does not belong to the group of codices commissioned or purchased by the king in Bruges ca. 1479-83. It might have come into the royal hands as a gift from Margaret of York, Edward IV’s sister and the wife of Charles the Bold of Burgundy, cf. Joanna Frońska, catalogue no. 152, In: S. McKendrick, J. Lowden, K. Doyle, with J. Frońska and D. Jackson, Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination, London pp. 420-21.

5 T. Kren, s. McKendrick, Illuminating the Renaissance: The Triumph of Flemish Manuscript Painting in Europe, Los Angeles 2003, p. 309.

6 Cf. T. Kren, Some Newly Discovered Miniatures by Simon Marmion and his Workshop, In: The British Library Journal, xxii, 1996, p. 193-220; and S. McKendrick, op. cit, catalogue no. 9.

7 T. Kren also presented a hypothetical reconstruction of the iconographic program of the Book of Hours, at that time unaware of the Krakow manuscript, and he suggested that eight miniatures were missing; op.cit, p. 218.