c 1500 Book of Hours Leaf - Soul in the Fires of Hell


Original leaf from a French medieval illuminated manuscript Book of Hours. 13 lines of hand-ruled text written in Latin with dark brown ink in fine lettre bâtarde script on animal vellum with rubrics in red.

One two-line illuminated initial in blue and white with an internal floral design on a red ground; five one-line illuminated initials in burnished gold on blue and red ground;  four line extenders in liquid gold on blue, sepia, or red ground. Miniature painting of a Soul in the Fires of Hell.   The text and miniature painting, recto, are surrounded by an intricate floral border (including columbines – symbol of the Holy Spirit) in red, blue, green on a liquid gold ground. 

Origin:  Paris, France circa 1500. 

Size:  110 x 75mm – 4.25 x 2.9 inches, from a diminutive manuscript likely written for a lady.                

The miniature painting (recto) depicts a Soul in the Fires of Hell: A nude male tries to get the attention of God in heaven above by pointing to his head with his right hand as he is surrounded by flames and devils – one of who is tugging on a chain around his neck. This uncommon and unusual image is the opening leaf to the the Office of the Dead at Vespers.

The two-line illuminated “D” begins Psalm 114 (King James 115) 1-6: “Dilexi quoniam…” (I have loved, because the Lord will hear the voice of my prayer. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me: and in my days I will call upon him. The sorrows of death have compassed me: and the perils of hell have found me. I met with trouble and sorrow: and I called upon the name of the Lord. O Lord, deliver my soul…).

Provenance:   ex-collection of Brooklyn Museum of Art, acquired in 1919.  Deaccessioned and sold to support the museum collection.

A dramatic and seldom seen image  in very nice antiquarian condition with bold colors and gold. Some devotional wear is in the extreme lower border on recto.

Shipped unmatted

  • Inventory# IM-13286