Splendid vellum manuscript by Jean Coene, replete with illuminations of female saints, probably commissioned by a Paris nunnery

Missal. Latin manuscript on vellum.

Northern France, ca. 1500.

Large 8vo (ca. 140 x 203 mm). 105 ff. (without blank leaf 82), numbered in roman numerals, with 2 page-sized and 23 small miniatures as well as 3 large and 438 smaller initials, all in colours and gilt. Mostly 29 lines per page in an elegant black bastarda with red (and occasional gilt) headings and emphases; numerous rubrications and small initials in gilt on blue or red background. Leaves 101r-105r contain somewhat later additions in red and black ink; 2 unnumbered vellum leaves with a table of contents in red ink bound at the end (probably contemporaneous with the binding). Gatherings (ab8, c10, d-n8) and catchwords marked throughout by the scribe. Green satin binding, ca. 1550, with white silk pastedowns and vellum endpapers. All edges gilt. Stored in custom-made half morocco solander case.


An uncommonly painstakingly prepared liturgical manuscript with remarkable illumination by the Parisian artist Jean Coene IV, known as the "Master of the Paris Entrances", probably commissioned for a nuns' order. Apart from the hundreds of initials, painted on gilt background and mostly decorated with flowers, berries, and leaves, the manuscript contains the following illustrations: folio 7v, St Jerome (28 x 30 mm); 19r, the Eucharist, with two nuns and a young clergyman in prayer at the bottom (148 x 102 mm); 20v, God enthroned, surrounded by the symbols of the four evangelists, a lower compartment showing 12 nuns and the same young clergyman in prayer (148 x 104 mm); 27r, Nativity (50 x 47 mm); 28v, Resurrection (37 x 34 mm); 29v, Assumption of Christ (42 x 46 mm); 40v, Madonna on a Crescent Moon (48 x 53 mm); 43v, the Virgin in the Temple (60 x 56 mm); 44v, Christ in the Temple (60 x 56 mm); 46r, Annunciation of Mary (41 x 43 mm); 48r, Visitation (65 x 53 mm); 49r Assumption of Mary (45 x 38 mm); 50v, God surrounded by the Saints (54 x 58 mm); 53v, John of Patmos (48 x 43 mm); 55r, St Benedict of Nursia (25 x 36 mm); 56r, St John the Baptist (48 x 45 mm); 57v, Mary Magdalene (44 x 39 mm); 59v, St Anne and the Virgin (45 x 44 mm); 62r, St Paul (28 x 29 mm); 64r, St Peter (23 x 24 mm); 74r, St Francis of Assisi (34 x 31 mm); 77v, St Adrian (28 x 30 mm); 78r, St Catherine and the Virgin (45 x 50 mm); 79r, Christ Crucified, with two saints (40 x 36 mm); 89r, a saint with a crozier and heart (23 x 23 mm). The miniatures are of exceptional quality throughout, showing delicate draughtsmanship and a stark but well-balanced colour palette. The emphasised name of St Dionysius (76rv) suggests that this splendid manuscript was commissioned by a Paris monastery, very possibly a Benedictine convent (as may be inferred from the illumination of this saint, fol. 55, as well as from the habit of the nuns depicted in the two page-sized and several of the smaller miniatures). The young male oblate seen in the two large illustrations is very likely a self-portrait by the artist.

Jean Coene IV was a Paris-based illuminator much in demand during the first two decades of the 16th century, a contemporary of the artist Jean Pichore, with whom he collaborated repeatedly. He is known as "Maître des Entrées parisiennes" for his series of illuminations prepared on the occasion of the entrances of Mary Tudor as wide of King Louis XII of France and of Claude de France as wife of François I.

Spine somewhat rubbed with light traces of worming. Folios 79v, 80 and 81 are numbered and ruled but remained blank (as was the lacking folio 82); tiny cuts in the vellum of ff. 83-85 bear witness to the knife that excised the preceding leaf. A very short repair to the edge of fol. 27, very occasional insignificant ink or paint smudges. A few quire signatures trimmed at the lower edge, but otherwise quite exceptionally well preserved with wide margins, clean and without any abrasions to the paint; the illuminations appear outstandingly crisp. We are indebted to Dr Isabelle Delaunay, Paris, for her help in identifying the artist.

Provenance: 1) likely Parisian Benedictine convent; 2) early note on the manuscript on verso of front flyleaf; 3) recto of front flyleaf inscribed by a royal official Coucault (?), dated Saumur, 2 Oct. 1706; 4) front pastedown has an old note of the acquisition price, as well as 5) the woodcut bookplate (printed in red) of the Belgian printer and art dealer Jean-Baptiste Verdussen (1698-1773), who collection was dispersed by sale in 1776; 6) sales notice clipped from 1951 Librairie Lardanchet catalogue tipped in to flyleaf; 7) last sold at Hartung & Hartung's sale 62 (1990), lot 16.


For the artist cf. I. Delaunay, "Le Maître des entrées parisiennes", in: Art de l'enluminure 26 (Sept.-Nov. 2008), pp. 52-59, 62-69; for the identification with Jacques Coene cf. E. König, Cat. Tenschert 1997, pp. 306-309, 320, and M. Orth, Renaissance Manuscripts: The 16th Century (2015), cat. 19-22.

Stock Code: BN#52073 Tags: , ,