MASS OF ST GREGORY, A PRIEST HOLDS ALOFT HIS SOUL IN THE FORM OF A BABY BEFORE AN ALTAR, THE ASSUMPTION, CHRIST PANTOCRATOR, ST AUGUSTINE, ST DENIS, four miniatures and two historiated initials on four leaves from an illuminated Missal [Rouen, second quarter 15th century]
Splendid leaves from a richly decorated Missal painted by a close associate of the Fastolf Master (fl. c. 1420-60). The earliest work ascribed to the Master of Sir John Fastolf by John Plummer is a Book of Hours from 1424 (Morgan M.27), made in Rouen after his move to this prosperous centre of trade and administration from Paris, where he had collaborated with the Bedford and Boucicaut Masters. The ivy-leaf borders with acanthus sprays, strong palette of blues and reds, and starry skies of the present miniatures reflect the Master’s Parisian inheritance of the early 15th century.
Most of the manuscripts that emanated from the Fastolf Master’s Rouen atelier were Hours for Rouen and other Norman uses (see also Paris, Bibl. de l’Arsenal, ms. 560, use of Coutances, where stylistic similarities can be seen): only one other Missal is known from his shop, held at Keble College, Oxford (Ms. 38), and the Schoenberg database records only 15 Rouen Missals of the 15th century to have passed through public auction. The de luxe manuscript from which these leaves came is now lost, but 30 of its leaves were offered at public auction in 1985 (see Provenance), bearing 30 miniatures between them: the parent Missal must have borne an ambitious cycle of illumination, perhaps trumped only by the Book of Hours made for Sir William Porter (Morgan M.105) with 75 extant miniatures.
- Likely made for an English patron. The Fastolf Master is known to have worked for English patrons, including Sir William Porter, part of the English administration in Rouen during its occupation. That Saint Romanus, Rouen’s patron saint, is accorded only a memorial in text to be found on another leaf from the parent volume, rather than the full mass for his feast day, suggests an English commission. The part-erasure of a reference to the pope on yet another leaf indicates the Missal remained in England, after the return of its owner, at least until the Reformation.
- The name ‘chiaves’ added to f. 5 in a 17th-century Italian hand [and elsewhere in the 30 leaves offered in 1985 the annotation ‘Dil Secrettario Chiaves’] suggests a translation to that country.
- Sotheby’s sale, 26 November 1985, lot 120: the present leaves, along with those comprising the following lot, represent 8 of the 30 leaves offered in 1985.
325 x 225mm (Mass of St Gregory 89 x 64mm, Priest holds aloft soul: 30 x 35mm; Assumption: 78 x 35mm; Christ Pantocrator: 31 x 45mm; St Augustine: 38 x 33mm; St Denis: 65 x 35mm).
J. Plummer & G. Clark, The Last Flowering: French painting in manuscripts, 1420-1530 (New York, 1982), pp. 15-16.
C. Hourihane, ed., The Grove Encyclopedia of Medieval Art and Architecture, vol. II (New York, 2013), p. 503.
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