Utrecht, c. 1460-1465.
Vellum, 162 leaves, 118x80 mm, written space 70x47 mm, 1 column, 16 lines. Written in a littera textualis. Latin.
Illustration / decoration 2 full-page miniatures, painted border decoration, pen-flourishes.
Binding Nineteenth-century binding of red morocco over pasteboard, gilt.
Provenance Made for Jacobus Johannes IJsbrandus, canon of the cathedral chapter. The manuscript was in the possession of J.J.M. Timmers (1907-1996), who gave it on loan to the Archiepiscopal Museum in Utrecht in 1935. Purchased for the library at an auction at Beijers', Utrecht, 28-29 May 1953, lot 1.
Until the Reformation the cathedral city of Utrecht was the focus of ecclesiastic power in the Northern Netherlands. Following prolonged periods of economic prosperity in the fifteenth century the population grew to an estimated 20,000. As a result the city housed many people from all walks of life. This is to a certain extent mirrored by a number of manuscripts that were once privately owned and have been preserved in Utrecht.
One man with a great deal of power and wealth was Evert Zoudenbalch (d. 1503), a canon of Utrecht cathedral. His wealth allowed him to commission a richly illustrated, two-volume Bible, currently kept in Vienna. For the illumination he employed a number of leading Utrecht miniaturists, the most important of whom, the Master of Evert Zoudenbalch, was named after him. No less influential or wealthy was the cathedral provost Gijsbrecht van Brederode (d. 1475), who played a leading, but largely unsuccessful, role in the struggle between the Burgundian and the anti-Burgundian party, also known as 'Codfish' and 'Hooks'. Like Zoudenbalch, Gijsbrecht could afford to commission a sumptuously illustrated manuscript, in this case a Book of Hours, which is currently kept in Liège. For the illuminations Van Brederode engaged the services of two of the miniaturists who earlier had contributed to the Vienna Bible: the Master of Evert Zoudenbalch, and the miniaturist who was named after the new client and became known as the Master of Gijsbrecht van Brederode.
Evert and Gijsbrecht clearly belonged to the highest Utrecht elite. Cathedral canon Jacobus Johannes IJsbrandus (d. 1504) came a little lower down the social scale. Not much is known about him, which might be an indication of his lowlier social position. The fact that he had less financial elbow room but was not exactly destitute may be demonstrated by the small Book of Hours displayed here, once made for IJsbrandus and since 1953 part of the Utrecht University Library. In contrast to the Gijsbrecht van Brederode Hours, the Book of Hours of IJsbrandus contains no text pages with painted decoration, but the red-and-blue pen-flourishes which can be found on some text pages instead, are as exuberant as they are skilful. And compared to the dozens of miniatures and historiated initials in the Brederode Hours the number of four or five miniatures which once embellished IJsbrandus' manuscript can hardly be called impressive, but despite that they were the work of a first-rate illuminator, namely, the Master of Gijsbrecht van Brederode himself.
That is, on the assumption that all four or five miniatures are from the same hand, for only two have been preserved. The first is opposite the text that begins the Hours of the Virgin and shows the Annunciation as a rather domestic affair. Behind the archangel Gabriel, half inside the miniature and half outside it in the margin, the commissioner of the manuscript is seen kneeling in prayer, with an almuce (a long piece of fur) over his right arm, signalling his rank as canon of the cathedral. The fact that it is Jacobus Johannes IJsbrandus who is portrayed here is demonstrated by the family coats of arms being carried by little figures in the top margin: on the left the coat of arms of his father Jan IJsbrants, on the right that of his mother Jutte van Rijn. The coats of arms in the bottom margin have been identified by earlier scholars as those of his grandmothers. The Seven Penitential Psalms open with a miniature of the Last Judgement. In spite of the modest size of the manuscript and the simplified composition of the scene, here too the involvement of the Master of Gijsbrecht van Brederode is unmistakable.
There is little doubt that this talented man was a secular craftsman. However, it is likely that the script and the pen-flourishes in IJsbrandus' Book of Hours came from one of the many monasteries that Utrecht boasted. One exception might be the much more complex pen-flourishes on the opening page of the Hours of the Virgin displayed here, which clearly differs from the rest. It shows a striking resemblance to the most important pages in some other manuscripts originating from Utrecht and nowadays kept in the University Library: Ms. 55, Ms. 83, Ms. 91 (see no. 14) and Ms. Thomaasse 9/85. In those manuscripts, too, these pen-flourishes are different from that on less important pages. Further research might make it plausible that the work involving this relatively superior quality of pen-flourishes was contracted out to somebody outside the monastery. Curiously enough, apart from the Utrecht pen-flourishes the Book of Hours of IJsbrandus also contains a few specimens of pen-flourishes characteristic for the province of North Holland, accompanying six initials in the Hours of the Virgin.Literature