Le chevalier délibéré, illuminated manuscript on vellum

Lot Number 360
Author OLIVIER DE LA MARCHE (c.1422-1502),
Title

Le chevalier délibéré, illuminated manuscript on vellum

Year Published 1547
Place Printed Brussels
Printed By
Description OLIVIER DE LA MARCHE (c.1422-1502), Le chevalier délibéré, illuminated manuscript on vellum, Brussels, 1547 210 x 123mm. i + 68 folios. COMPLETE, each page without illustration with three verses of 8 lines, ruled space: 160 x 75mm. SIXTEEN LARGE MINIATURES, interleaving of paper before each miniature (small pigment losses, offsetting and spotting to title-page, light smudging to miniature on f.19v, a few other slight losses or smudges, spotting at edge of lower margins ff.9-11). English 18th-century red morocco tooled in gilt (joints cracked and split at head, corners scuffed). PROVENANCE: (1) Written in Brussels in 1547 for a member of the Habsburg court and possibly commissioned by, or on behalf of, the HOLY ROMAN EMPEROR CHARLES V (1500-1558) himself. (2) GEORGE WATSON TAYLOR M.P. (1770-1841): his sale, Evans, 14 April 1823, lot 335. (3) SIR HENRY HOPE EDWARDES, 10th Bart (1829-1900) of Wootton Hall, Ashbourne, Derbyshire: his armorial bookplate inside upper cover. CONTENT: Olivier de la Marche: Le Chevalier délibéré, in 338 verses, ff.1-65v. NINETEEN MANUSCRIPTS SURVIVE, ALL BUT THE PRESENT AND AN ILLUSTRATED PAPER COPY ARE IN INSTITUTIONAL COLLECTIONS. Olivier de la Marche, loyal servant to the Dukes of Burgundy and their Habsburg successors, composed his chivalric version of the Ars moriendi, or Art of Dying, in the aftermath of the unexpected death of Mary of Burgundy in March 1482. Renowned as the most vivid recorder of the court of Burgundy in the days of its greatest splendour, de la Marche was moved to an elegiac contemplation of death by his own advancing years as well as by the fragility of the ducal dynasty. As the ‘Resolute Knight’, accompanied by his trusty steed, he encounters various personifications in his allegorical quest against Death and her chief henchmen, Debility and Accident. Among them, Fresh Memory encourages him to review the great men of the past, including many of his contemporaries, in a roll call of the Burgundian court, while Understanding instructs him how to vanquish Death and achieve eternal life. Rich with textual and visual depictions of knights clashing on horseback, of jousting tournaments and medieval armour and weaponry, this is an evocative literary example of the quintessential chivalric quest. The work was very popular, rapidly going into print with the first known edition appearing in Paris in 1488. Numerous editions followed, including two slightly different versions of the text printed in the Netherlands in c.1489 and c.1498, complete with dramatically accomplished woodcuts, the apparent inspirations for the present manuscript. ILLUMINATION: Olivier de la Marche intended the vivid imagery of his poem to be given visual form. His detailed instructions for fifteen miniatures survive in three, unillustrated, manuscripts, presumably deriving from the author’s own draft: THIS IS ONE OF ONLY FIVE SURVIVING MANUSCRIPTS CONTAINING ALL FIFTEEN SUBJECTS LISTED IN THE AUTHOR’S ORIGINAL INSTRUCTIONS. This careful approach was probably required by a discriminating patron, who turned to an illuminator in the group well used to working for the Habsburg court – that around the Master of Charles V – named from the earliest of a series of books of hours made for the Emperor, completed by 1519. Active in Brussels or Mechelen, the group shared a variety of stylistic traits, such as the characteristic tall narrow format and the framing together of text and miniature without border decoration, both features of this copy of Le Chevalier délibéré. Within the circle of the Master of Charles V, the illuminator of the Chevalier délibéré is closest to, and perhaps identifiable with, the Master of Morgan M.491, named from another of the books of hours made for Charles V, dated 1533. Although it is difficult to attribute miniatures that are comparatively faithful to the earlier models of the Dutch printed editions, the changes to the woodcut designs, as well as the painting technique in the present manuscript, accord with the work of this Master: characteristic are his short strokes of dark colour, his distinctive bearded facial types and his atmospheric and dramatic landscapes. Other variations show a similarly thoughtful approach to reusing the designs: sometimes, the scenes are slightly simplified to fit the smaller, narrower format but the settings are often elaborated. Interestingly, a few changes are designed to evoke the Burgundian court more obviously, while other aspects are updated: the Palace of Love has been classicised and the musicians’ instruments modernised; the Author’s dagged chaperon has been streamlined to coincide with the later fashion for flat hats. Thus these evocative miniatures preserve the glories of the Burgundian past while presenting an ever relevant message for contemporaries, a combination that clearly appealed to the patron of this luxurious manuscript and was highly valued by the Emperor Charles V himself. The subjects of the miniatures are as follows: f.1 The Chevalier délibéré, the Author, confronts the skeletal figure of Death. f.1v The Author is instructed by Thought f.3v Thought and two squires arm the author with the shield of Good Hope and other allegorical accoutrements for his quest against Atropos or Death f.5v The lady Remnants of Youth separates the Author and Hutin, as they battle on horseback f.7 The Author is welcomed by the hermit Understanding f.8v The Author and Understanding share a meal in a garden f.12 Understanding shows the Author the relics of famous deaths, such as Samson's column and Adonis's boar f.17 Understanding gives the Author a new lance, Authority, to continue his quest. f.19v The Author and Age fight on foot f.24 The Author is welcomed to the Palace of Love by the doorkeeper, the fool Illusion, and by Desire but, prompted by Remembrance, he turns his horse away. f.32 The lady Fresh Memory shows the Author the tombs of those ancient and modern killed by Accident or Debility, the servants of Atropos f.42v The Author and Fresh Memory watch Philip the Good joust against Debility f.46 They watch Charles the Bold of Burgundy, in gilded armour, lead his cavalry against Accident f.50 They watch Mary of Burgundy, accompanied by personifications of good qualities, process beneath the spear of Atropos to her combat with Accident f.53v Fresh Memory leaves the Author at the approaches to his château f.56 The Author, in a bed decorated with his motto Tant a souffert, is counselled by Understanding
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Provenance
Estimated Price GBP 200,000.00 - 300,000.00
( USD 258,000.00 - 387,000.00 )
Actual Price GBP 506,500.00 ( USD 719,230.00 )

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AUCTION DETAILS

Auction House Christies
Website http://www.christies.com
Auction Name Linley Hall, Shropshire Library
Sale Number #12138
Auction Date March 9, 2016 - March 9, 2016
Sale Name Linley Hall, Shropshire Library
Total Lots 89
Description of Sale

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