Attributed to the Netherlands—Not altogether French—The home of Anne of Bohemia, Richard II.'s queen—Court of Charles IV. at Prag—Bohemian Art—John of Luxembourg, King of Bohemia—The Golden Bull of Charles IV.—Marriage of Richard II.—The transformation of English work owing to this marriage and the arrival of Bohemian artists in England—Influence of Queen Anne on English Art and Literature—Depression caused by her death—Examination of Roy. MS. 1 E. 9, and 2 A. 18—The Grandison Hours—Other MSS.—Introduction of Flemish work by Edward IV.

It has been suggested by a high authority that the immediate sources of the third period of English illumination were Netherlandish, but probable as this seems at first sight, there is another explanation which seems to the present writer to be a better one. As already pointed out, the influence on English work before 1377, notwithstanding political conditions, are distinctly French. After this date, though the artistic relation with France is not broken off, yet long before 1390 we find this new influence which is not French, and for which we have no special evidence that it is Netherlandish. If we go, however, a little farther afield, we shall find it. In the new work is a softer kind of foliage and a greater variety of sweet colour, and both these characteristics are found in a school of illumination that was being formed under the auspices of the Emperor Charles IV. at Prag in Bohemia. The artists in that capital who executed the famous Golden Bull and commenced the grand Wenzel Bible were a select band of Frenchmen and Italians; the combined result of whose designs and labours was this very mixture of Gothic ivy leaf and thorn with the softer Othonian and Roman foliages and a new scheme of colour. Charles IV., son of that famous John of Luxembourg, the blind king of Bohemia, who perished at Crécy, was himself King of Bohemia as well as Emperor, and a man of brilliant personal accomplishments and cultivated tastes in literature and art.

Becoming Emperor the very next year after his succession to the throne of Bohemia, he fixed his residence at Prag, where he began the building of the new city, and founded a university on the model of that of Paris, where he had studied, and whence he had married his first wife, Blanche, daughter of Charles, Count of Valois. His university soon attracted some thousands of students, and with them no small crowd of literary men and artists, both from France and Italy. The great fact, however, to remember about Charles IV. is the Golden Bull, the masterly scheme by which all matters concerning the election to the Empire were in future to be settled. All the Constitutions were written in a book called, from the bulla or seal of gold which was appended to it, the Golden Bull, of which the text was drawn up either at Metz or Nuremberg in 1356, and many copies distributed throughout the Empire. It is further affirmed that the absolute original is at Frankfort. But the splendid copy made by order of the Emperor Wenzel in 1400 is still preserved in the Imperial Library at Vienna. And as it is ah example of the style of illumination practised in Prag during the reign of Charles IV., we may call it Bohemian. It is true that the foliages are a little more luxuriant in this Wenzel-book than in the earliest examples of the style seen in England, but the twenty years which had elapsed would easily account for this difference. As compared, however, with either French or Netherlandish, the new English style shows a much greater similarity to the work then being done in Lower Bavaria. In these soft curling foliages and the fresh carnations of the flesh-tints of the Prag and Nuremberg illuminators we may trace the actual source of the remarkable transformation seen in English illumination after the marriage of Richard II.

Charles IV. was four times married. His successor, Wenzel, whose ghastly dissipations can only be regarded as the terrible proofs of insanity, was the child of his third wife. His fourth wife, the beautiful daughter of the Duke of Pomerania and Stettin, had four children, of whom Sigismund, the eldest, afterwards succeeded Wenzel as emperor, and Anne, the third, came to England as the wife of Richard II. The magnificence of her equipage and the crowd of persons who formed her retinue are noticed by contemporary writers, and the effect upon English manners was instantaneous. Her beauty, sweetness of manners, and culture rendered her at once not merely the idol of her husband, who, says Walsingham, “could scarcely bear her to be out of his sight,” but universally beloved by all the English nation.

To her the first English writer on heraldry, John of Guildford dedicated his book, and the artists who came with her from her luxurious home at Prag would naturally become the leaders of taste in their adopted country. After a while, indeed, the numbers of countrymen of the Queen were looked upon as the cause of extortions practised on the English people in order to supply the money lavished on these foreigners. More than once is this grievance referred to. In an old MS. in the Harley Library (2261), containing a fifteenth-century translation of Higden's Polychronicon, these foreigners are made responsible for at least one fashionable extravagance: “Anne qwene of Ynglonde dyede in this year (1393) at Schene the viith day of the monethe of Janius, on the day of Pentecoste: the dethe of whom the Kynge sorowede insomoche that he causede the maner there to be pullede downe, & wolde not comme in eny place by oon yere folowynge where sche hade be, the churche excepte; whiche was beryede in the churche of Westmonastery, in the feste of seynte Anne nexte folowynge, with grete honoure & solennite. That qwene Anne purchased of the pope that the feste of Seynte Anne scholde be solenniysed in Ynglonde. The dethe of this qwene Anne induced grete hevynesse to noble men & to commune peple also, for sche causede noo lytelle profite to the realme. But mony abusions comme from Boemia into Englonde with this qwene, and specially schoone with longe pykes, insomoche that they cowthe not go untylle that thei were tyede to theire legges, usenge that tyme cheynes of silvyr at the pykes of theire schoone.”

It is a fact that the Bohemian manner of illumination, with its three-lobed and vari-coloured foliages, became the fashion in every English centre of illumination. In the preceding remarks we have endeavoured to account for it. That the same style went from Prag to Nuremberg may be only the natural result of its being carried in the marriage and retinue of the Princess Margaret, Anne's half-sister, who became the wife of the Burggrave John.

Quite a similar MS. to those executed in the reign of Richard II. in England and those of Bohemia is the Wilhelm van Oransse of Wolfram v. Eschenbach, now in the Imperial Library at Vienna. A similar, but inferior, work exists in the Prayer-book written by Josse de Weronar in the British Museum (Add. 15690). The English foliages never show quite all the varieties of colour seen in the continental examples, but the golden diapers and pounced gold patterns are quite as elaborate. See this work, however, in Arundel 83. It appears also in the mural paintings of the end of the fourteenth and beginning of the fifteenth centuries. No doubt the English art of the fourteenth century is of French origin—so mainly is that of Bohemia—for Charles IV. was brought up at the Court of France. Further than this, we think we are justified in tracing the new elements in Bohemian to Italy, and those in English to Bohemia. The most striking proof is not only the foliages, but the change from the long, colourless faces of French miniatures to the plump and ruddy countenances seen, for example, in the Lancastrian MSS. in the Record Office and in Harl. 7026[39] of the British Museum. Of course, this suggestion of source is not put forward as a dead certainty, but it affords this probability that as the style suddenly arose during the lifetime of Anne of Bohemia—and she was the acknowledged leader of fashion—so her tastes in respect of illuminated books and heraldic decoration would become those of her new subjects. Let us examine this fifteenth-century English work, and for this purpose let us take the great illuminated Bible in the Royal Library, 1 E. 9. It is an enormous folio, and rather unwieldly, but a most interesting example of the new style. Its initials are large, richly illuminated in gold and attractive colours. It has well-executed histories within the initials, and boldly designed border frames, elegantly adorned with foliages and conventional or idealised flowers. Perhaps the most noticeable feature is the beautiful, decorative foliage work in the limbs of the letters—itself a South German peculiarity—then the alternation of colours without interrupting the design, the profusion of foliage modelling in the backgrounds of the letter panels outside the historiations. The next thing is the bold use of minium side by side even with pure rose-petal colour, pale bright cerulean blue, and bright gold. Lastly, the immense variety of leaf-forms, based on the three, five, and seven-lobed groupings of the typical form. The coil and spiral are freely used as the groundwork, and the colours alternated as the coils or spirals change from front to back of the leaf.

[39] The Lovell Psalter.

Brit. Mus. Harl. MS. 2785, fol. 194 v.
Brit. Mus. Roy. Ms. 2, A. xviii, fol. 55

Backgrounds of miniature histories are treated as in the Bohemian MSS.—Wilhelm v. Oransse, for example—that is, with fine golden tracery-patterns on deep, rich colours. The figure-painting is vastly improved—the features now being actually painted and modelled as in modern portrait painting, not merely indicated by pen strokes. The flesh-tints as previously noticed are bright and ruddy. The principal colours used on the foliages are blue, crimson, of various depths, and bright vermilion, with occasional admission of bright green and paled red ochre. Very similar to 1 E. 9 is Harl. 1892, and among other MSS. that may be studied with this one is 2 A. 18—a book of Offices, very sweetly illuminated, and full of typical examples of treatment both of architectural design and treillages of foliage.

The Gothic pilasters are filled with the same kind of coiling and spiral leaves and ribbons that are used in 1 E. 9 and Harl. 1892, the backgrounds of the miniatures enriched with fine gold patterns. The furniture and costumes indicate the later years of the reign of Richard II., being similar to those shown in the miniatures of Harl. 1319, which relates the story of Richard's misfortunes. A few miniatures of saints accompany the prayers to them. One of the saints is peculiar, being the Prior of Bridlington, perhaps the “Robertus scriba” who copied certain theological treatises for the library, and who lived in the time of Stephen or Henry II.

In the beautiful initial D is the figure of a lady praying, the first few words of the prayer being written on a floating ribbon above her head. A fine panelling of black and gold forms the background. The lady's costume is that of the end of the fourteenth century, her head-dress being somewhat lower than that worn in the time of Isabella of Bavaria; in other respects she recalls the figure of Christine de Pisan in Harl. 4431—one of the fine MSS. of the French school. As the psalter or offices was once the property of the Grandison family, as is shown by the numerous entries respecting them in the calendar, no doubt this lady was the first owner of the MS., and probably the same as shown in the beautiful miniature of the Annunciation previously given. Many charming initials follow this one, and brightly coloured bracket treillages and borders are given in profusion, introducing every variety of coloured ideal leaf-form known to the art of the time. It seems probable from its style and the costumes that the MS. was executed for the Lady Margaret, widow of Thomas, the last Lord Grandison, who died in 1376, and given to her by Sir John Tuddenham, her second husband. A better model for the modern illuminator could not easily be found. Other examples may be briefly enumerated, in 2 B. 8, 2 B. 10, 2 B. 1, 2 B. 12 and 13, 18 A. 12, 18 C. 26, Harl. 1719, 1892, etc. The Psalter 2 B. 8 has the good fortune to be dated, and its purpose and other particulars clearly set forth in a statement at the beginning of the volume. The gist of this is that it was composed at the instance of the Lady Joan Princess of Wales, mother of Richard II., and that it was executed by Brother John Somour (Seymour), a Franciscan, in 1380. Thus the illumination of it would probably be done about the time, of the young Queen's arrival in England. The Princess Joan died July 8th, 1385. The work corresponds with this date. The Grandison Psalter is perhaps somewhat later than Roy. 2 B. 1, and the rest are later still.

Brit. Mus. Roy. MS. 18 A. xii, f. 1
C. 1470
Brit. Mus. Harl. MS. 1719, fol. 73 v.

One rather fine example is seen in Arund. MS. 109, a folio called the Melreth Missal, because given by William Melreth, Alderman of London, to the church of St. Lawrence, Old Jewry. He died in 1446.

For topographical miniature a good example occurs in Roy. 16 F. 2, which contains a grand view of London, including the Tower, but this MS. is probably not of genuine English production. Nor is Roy. 19 C. 8, though a very interesting example as regards costume and local usages. The genuine English work of which Arund. 109 is a type has received the name of Lancastrian, as falling to the reigns of the three Lancastrian kings—Henry IV., V., and VI.

In the reign of Edward IV. we meet with the introduction of Flemish illumination, which gradually supersedes the native style, and by the time of Henry VII. the latter has almost disappeared. Its final extinction, however, was left for the sixteenth century, when either Flemish or Italian renaissance work entirely took its place. By the time of Queen Elizabeth English illumination was a thing of the past.