Illumination on vellum from a Book of Hours, of Dominican Use. France,  



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Leaf from an early Book of Hours, of Dominican Use, with an ape seated on a stool in discourse with a white bird, beside a two-bodied lion-like drollery creature, from an illuminated manuscript in Latin on vellum

[France (Tournai?), c.

Single leaf, with single column, 17 lines in a squat and rounded early gothic hand (opening the Hours of the Holy Cross), capitals touched in red, rubrics in red, small initials in red or liquid gold with contrasting penwork, one 2-line initials in pale pink on burnished gold ground, one very large initial in coloured interlacing bands enclosing four swirls of ivy leaf foliage on gold and blue grounds, extending at its corners into decorative coloured foliate borders on spiky edged gold grounds and bezants, these enclosing entire text and supporting the figures named above as well as two small birds, similar border without figures and animals on three sides on verso, some small scuffs and spots, outer edges trimmed with significant losses only to lower border, 117 by 90 mm. (written space: 80 by 55 mm.)

The parent volume was commissioned for a wealthy Dominican preacher: a sister leaf has the rubric “Officium beate virginis maria secundum ordinem fratrum predicatorum”.

Here the ape seated on a low wooden stool, gesturing to his white bird companion, embodies one of the central concepts of medieval art - the subversion of authority figures in the art on the edge of the sacred space. Here the image of the ape appears to echo (or ‘ape’) scholars and written authorities, who are commonly portrayed in this pose.

Stock Code: 224622

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