Exceptional illuminated manuscript
LAVENDE, Luigi di
Le Sette Allegrezze della Gran Madre di Dio Maria
No place [Paris or Brussels], ca. 1670
Illuminated manuscript on thin vellum, 12mo (110 x 78 mm) 21 unn.l; ff.n.ch.; contemporary stiff orange tinted vellum, flat spine, 2 metal clasps, gilt edges, modern slipcase.
30 000 

In stock

The text of this beautiful manuscript is in Italian, and in Latin for the litanies. It includes prayers for the Seven Joys of Mary, that is, for the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity, the Epiphany, the Presentation in the Temple, the Resurrection, the Assumption. Each prayer is preceded by a miniature, while the litanies which follow do not include any illustration. The Seven Joys of Mary have only very rarely been the subject of a manuscript, usually they are found in books of Hours or collections of prayers. And it is only in the books of Hours with abundant illustration that these prayers are accompanied by a cycle of illustration, which coincides, as here, with the miniatures usually attached to the Office of the Virgin.


The volume is illustrated with 7 full-page miniatures in oval fields, surrounded by a frame with a black background and a golden border decorated with foliage, fruit and masks in grisaille and gold. All the pages of text have, at the top and bottom of each page, a miniature medallion, in all 62 medallions, surrounded by a border with a black background decorated with gold edging and foliage, fruit, flowers and floral decoration, animals in grisaille and gold. The title and many initials in the text are calligraphed in gold, nuanced in ink and minium, with floral ornamentation.


A very particular charm emerges from the precious decor and the precision of the design of this manuscript. The contrast of great aesthetic quality between the particularly clear vellum and the black background framing of the pages is very striking. This form of supervision is reminiscent of the black prayer books executed at the court of Burgundy during the reign of Charles the Bold. A book of Hours of this type, illuminated by Flemish artists is kept at the National Library in Vienna in Austria (Cod. 1856, E. Trenkler, Das schwarze Gebetbuch, Wien, 1948).


This book of Hours is supposed to have been offered in February 1466 by the people of Bruges to Charles the Bold on the occasion of the death of his second wife, Isabelle de Bourbon. But this interpretation, making the book a book of Mortuary Hours, is too restrictive because the different sheets also impregnated with purple and calligraphed in golden ink and silver are in the tradition of imperial purple codices of the Middle Ages and l ‘Antiquity, and on the other hand, take again the black, color of predilection for the clothes with the court of Burgundy. These elements thus offer us additional proof of an intentional stylization of colors which was cultivated at court.


The symbolism of the colors of the manuscript has undoubtedly taken an additional step towards desacralization and is clearly the fruit of artistic and aesthetic research. Combined with the grisaille ornamentation on a black background which shines like an enamel, the miniatures produce the effect of a work of great luxury able to satisfy a bibliophile with an extremely refined taste. Thumbnails half a centimeter stand out from the dark borders like rays of colored light. Realized with admirable precision, these miniatures open like windows on vast very detailed country landscapes, trees around which birds fly, a castle surrounded by water, a port, a city, a walker who contemplates a plain of the up a hill, a fisherman, a shepherd and peasants returning home, all the facets of bucolic life which contrast with the aristocratic nobility and refinement of the ornamentation.


We have very little information on the calligrapher Luigi di Lavende, who signed the dedication of this charming manuscript. We only know of him another manuscript, quoted by Portalis, Nicolas Jarry et la calligraphie au XVIIème siècle, p.116, these are the Seven Psalms of Penance in French, adorned, like ours, with miniature vignettes . Portalis quotes, in his work, the colophon of this manuscript “Ecrites à Brusseles par L. Lavende, 1673”. The indication of Brussels as a place of calligraphy may seem surprising, because one would rather expect Paris where the great calligraphers of this era were found, such as Nicolas Jarry, Philippe Limousin or Nicolas Duval. But is also known that Jarry worked in Brussels (Bradley, A Dictionnary of miniaturists, Illuminators, calligraphers and copyists, III, p.418). It was there that he signed in 1658 a prayer book, Ms lat. 10 569 of the Bibliothèque Nationale, as well as a small volume executed two years later, L’Exercice et pratique journalière du chrétien, described by Portalis as “decorated with florets in grisaille and gold” and which seems to present a lot of similarity with our manuscript. The very particular color of the illustrations of Sette Allegrezze, composed of blue, purple and red tones, enhanced by a green or a yellow, as in Italian miniatures since the quatrocento, suggests that the artist was Italian. One can therefore suppose that Luigi di Lavende was not only the calligrapher but also the illuminator.


This charming book has previously belonged to the famous German collector Peter Ludwig. It is described in the collection catalogue under the entry IX 21 and bears his book plate, an original engraving by Pablo Picasso. engraved