Skip to main menu | Skip to page content

Painting & Illumination

Adoration Guelders 1415

The Adoration

Origin / Date Guelders or Utrecht, c. 1415-25
Material Tempera and gold on vellum
Dimensions 140 x 113mm (likely trimmed from circa 180x 135mm?)
Availability Reserved


The adoration
Miniature for a Book of Hours
Netherlands: Nijmegen, Arnhem or Utrecht
c. 1415-25
Tempera and gold on very fine vellum

Miniature - 87 x 60mm (to inner frame of miniature - 87x77mm including bar borders)

A New Footnote In The History Of Pre-Eyckian Netherlandish Painting.

This miniature seems to be a piece with links to at least two puzzles. On the one hand it is associated stylistically with a manuscript of c. 1420 that is generally regarded, from the very first mention by Byvanck on (1922), as one of the three greatest illuminated manuscripts ever made in Holland, finding its place between the best work of the Dirc of Delft masters of the first generation (c. 1405, e.g. J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms 40) and the Hours of Catharine of Cleves of the third generation (c. 1440, The Morgan Library and Museum Mss M.917 and M.945). It is a book that can claim importance because, with the work of Johan Maelwael (Jean Malouel) and his nephews the brothers Limbourg, Claus Sluter, and the first generation illuminators just mentioned, it embodies the very earliest great Dutch as opposed to Flemish art before Jan van Eyck that has survived. This is a book, now in a private collection, sometimes called the Cockerell Hours, that belonged to the greatest collectors of the 20th century, Sir Sydney Cockerell, Major Abbey and Helmut Beck (Sotheby’s London, The Beck collection of illuminated Manuscripts, 16 June 1997 lot 20).

On the other hand this miniature seems directly linked with another Dutch manuscript, of equal fame but more puzzling compilation, the Prayerbook of Maria of Guelders, written in the convent of Marienborn near Arnhem in 1415 (Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin - Preussischer Kulturbesitz, MS. Germ quo 42.), on which artists of a Germanic bent (the Passion master), a more courtly style (The Mary of Guelders master) and a “Dutch” school (Otto of Moerdrecht masters) worked. Not only has the Mary master of this book always been seen as very close to the master of the Cockerell hours, in this miniature the unique “trident” shape of ivyleaf in the border parallels that used in MS. Germ quo 42.

The “Cockerell” artist, to give him a temporary label, remains a mystery. Scholars from Lieftinck and Hoogewerff on have associated him with the various lay conventual and monastic scriptoria associated with a Dutch pietistic movement, - launched in the 14th century by Geert Grote called Devotio Moderna, - mostly concentrated around Utrecht, Arnhem and Zwolle, such as Marienborn, Nieuwlicht, St. Agnietenberg, etc. Indeed, they tried to identify him with one of the priors of Windesheim, the mother house of the movement, such as a Willem Vornken, prior between 1408 and 1425, ont the one hand, and on the other with Henricus Mande, a pious visionary and writer of vernacular tracts, who was documented as illuminator and entered WIndesheim as “chanoine” in 1395. If not the illuminators, who are often placed in the secular workshops of Utrecht, at least both text and marginal decorations in this and related manuscripts of Devotio moderna can be documented to this constellation of augustinian canons.

At the same time, however, this artist is far and away, like the Limbourgs, the least “Dutch” of all Dutch illuminators, expressing a still 14th century attachment to the refinement of International Gothic as best illustrated by work done in Paris, even if both the court of Guelders, and the only other court in Holland at the time, that of Albert of Bavaria in The Hague which was to employ Jan van Eyck, also echoed its influence.

The mystery is not lessened by the two manuscripts that Panofsky already associated with this artist (whom he placed in Utrecht, while being strongly influenced by the main Paris courtly style via Guelders) and which he lists as Bodleian Ms 18392 [Clarke Ms 30], and Walters Gallery Baltimore Ms 185, the Doffines hours, since both of these works, despite clear similarities in size and style and fluency of drapery, have been remarked as showing considerable differences in care of execution compared to the “Cockerell hours”, whose touches a Christopher de Hamel (1997) could compare to the Boucicaut Master himself. Likewise, the refinement of the present miniature is first class.

There exists, however, one miniature (or set of miniatures) which sheds more light on the matter, and which was kindly pointed out to me by Professor James Marrow, the preeminent scholar in this field. This is an incredibly close counterpart to the present miniature, one of a series pasted in to a copy of the “Statuta Capituli Windeshemensi”, now Brussels, Bibliotheque royale Albert Ier, Ms. IV 108, fol. 1v., presumed to have been cut from a book of Hours as the miniatures bear no direct relation to the text.
There the kneeling figure of Mary, including the patterned halo and the pattern of folds, the stable and tiled floor, the position of the Child and its mat(tress) are just short of identical, to the point that they either by same hand or one used the other as direct model, while the compositional differences, the placement and depiction of Joseph (crouching, eyes shut and on the right in Brussels), the inversion of the animals feeding from a slightly different trough, and above all, the absence of shepherds in Brussels, are circumstantial, given that the mastery of the depiction of Joseph is equal in both, and both are of exactly the same type as many of the apostle figures in the Cockerell Hours miniatures.
However, there are also small differences in technique, especially for the Virgin and the Donkey, as well as in palette, which would allow one to argue for a different artist, even if clearly working in the same milieu.
For instance, though it is not possible to verify this for the Cockerell hours given the limitations of printed catalogue photos, the painting of the faces in this miniature, especially the shepherds, reveal ruddy highlights of white and pink not used by the illuminator of Brussels Ms. IV 108 (nor Walters 185), whereas such a technique is exactly that used by the illuminators of the Prayerbook of Mary of Guelders.

This unrecorded folio therefore raises new questions in this field of early Netherlandish painting, the first one of which is also one of the oldest:  Would the Prayerbook of Mary of Guelders, of similar format but added to and rebound later with one portion without miniatures now in Vienna (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek Ms. Cod. 1908), also have included a portion dedicated to the office of the Virgin? If so might this have been the miniature for Prime of this lost section? Any answer will have to depend on much further research, for the existing miniatures in the book have a small text portion underneath whose column width does not correspond exactly to the equivalent in this miniature (60mm). Paradoxically, this was much more a French or Flemish practice, as Dutch miniatures were mostly painted on separate leaves and inserted, as this one would have been.

A more in-depth discussion will be published soon in Medieval Art in Focus IV.

Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin - Preussischer Kulturbesitz, MS. Germ quo 42., the Prayerbook of Maria of Guelders can now be viewed through the efforts of Johan oosterhuizen at Radboud University Nijmegen -


Swiss collection


De Ricci, Seymour. Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada. Vol. 1. New York: H. W. Wilson Company, 1935, p. 787, no. 191.
Byvanck, A. W, and Hoogewerff, G.J. Noord-Nederlandsche miniaturen in handschriften der 14e, 15e en 16e eeuwen verzameld en beschreven. 3 vols. ‘s-Gravenhage: M. Nijhoff, 1922 -1925
Byvanck, A. W. “Kroniek der Noord-Nederlandsche miniaturen, III.” Oudheidkundig Jaarboek, 4th series, 9 (1940): 29-41.
Buschius: Chronicon Windesh.
Sterling, Charles [Charles Jacques, pseud.]. La peinture française: les peintres du moyen âge. Paris: P. Tisné, 1941, p. 78, no. 10.
Walters Art Gallery. Illuminated Books of the Middle Ages and Renaissance: An Exhibition Held at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Baltimore: Trustees of the Walters Art Gallery, 1949, no. 120.
Panofsky, Erwin. “Guelders and Utrecht: A Footnote on a Recent Acquisition of the Nationalmuseum at Stockholm.” Konsthistorisk Tidskrift 22 (1953): 90-102, no. 12.
Miner, Dorothy. Dutch Illuminated Manuscripts in the Walters Art Gallery. Connoisseur Yearbook (1955): 66-77.
Walters Art Gallery. The International Style: The Arts in Europe around 1400. Baltimore: Walters Art Gallery, 1962, pp. 71-72.
Diringer, David. The Illuminated Book: Its History and Production. 2nd ed. New York: Praeger, 1967, p. 446.
Meiss, Millard. French Painting in the Time of Jean de Berry: The Late Fourteenth Century and the Patronage of the Duke. New York: Phaidon, 1967, p. 391, no. 107.
Delaissé, L. M. J. A Century of Dutch Manuscript Illumination. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968, p. 20.
Gorissen, Friedrich. “Das Stundenbuch im rheinischen Niederland.” Studien zur klevischen Musik- und Liturgiegeschichte (Beiträge zur rheinischen Musikgeschichte 75). Cologne: Volk, 1968, pp. 63-109.
Gorissen, Friedrich. Das Stundenbuch der Katharina von Kleve. Berlin: G. Mann, 1973.
Jenni, Ulrike. Das Skizzenbuch der Internationalen Gotik in den Uffizien. Vienna: Holzhausen, 1976, p. 41, no. 193.
Boot, C. “Medieval Netherlandic Manuscripts in Libraries in the State of Maryland.” Archief- en bibliotheekwezen in België 56 (1985): 257-294.
Wieck, Roger S. Time Sanctified: The Book of Hours in Medieval Art and Life. New York: George Braziller, 1988, p. 86, 220, pl. 26 (fols. 49v, 58v).
Marrow, James H. “Johannes de Malborch: Dutch Scribe of the Early 15th Century.” Miscellanea Martin Wittek: Album de codicologie et de paleographie offert a Martin Wittek. Anny Raman and Eugene Manning, eds. Louvain-Paris: Editions Peeters, 1993, pp. 265-73, figs. 10-11 (fols. 6r, 43r).
Marrow, James H. As Horas De Margarida De Cleves. Lisboa: Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, 1995, pp. 76-78, 162, no. 34, 39, 43.
G. I. Lieftinek: “Windesheim, Agnietenberg en Mariënborn en hun aandeel in de Noordnederlandse boekverluchting” in Dancwerc. Opstellen aangeboden aan Prof. Dr. D. Th. Enklaar. Groningen 1959, pp. 197-199
Nijmegen 2005: The Limbourg Brothers: Nijmegen masters at the French court (1400-1416), tent. cat. Nijmegen, Museum Het Valkhof, R.A.M.J. Dückers & P. Roelofs (reds.). Gent 2005.

Nijsten 1992: G.J.M. Nijsten, Het hof van Gelre: cultuur ten tijde van de hertogen
uit het Gulikse en Egmondse huis (1371-1473). Proefschrift, Katholieke Universiteit Nijmegen, 1992.
Nijsten 2004: G.J.M. Nijsten, In the shadow of Burgundy: the court of Guelders in the late Middle Ages. Cambridge 2004.

Masters and miniatures: proceedings of the congress on medieval manuscript illumination in the Northern Netherlands (Utrecht, 10-13 December 1989), K. van der Horst & J.C.J.A. Klamt (reds.). Doornspijk 1991
Panofsky 1953: E. Panofsky, ‘Guelders and Utrecht. A footnote on a recent
acquisition of the Nationalmuseum at Stockholm’, in: Konsthistorisk tidskrift: revy för konst och konstforskning 22, 1953, pp. 90-102.
Panofsky 1971: E. Panofsky, Early Netherlandish painting: its origins and character, 2 vols. New York, 1971.

Hamburger 1988: J.F. Hamburger, ‘The Casanatense missal and painting in the
Guelders in the early fifteenth century’, in: Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch:
westdeutsches Jahrbuch für Kunstgeschichte, vol. 48, afl. 49, 1988, pp. 7-44.
Van Buren 1986: A.H. van Buren, ‘Thoughts, old and new, on the sources of
early Netherlandish painting’, in: Simiolus: kunsthistorisch tijdschrift, vol. 16, afl. 2, 1986, pp. 93-112.

Website by BridgingUnit