id-fifteenth-century Flemish manuscript illumination needs more focused studies such as this one. Unfortunately it is not available separately from the facsimile, although the illustration is adequate to follow the author’s arguments. Clark’s detailed examination of the Isabel Hours (Madrid, Biblioteca de Palacio, s.n.) and its complex critical history is a worthy accompaniment to the splendid manuscript which is one of the more abundantly illustrated and textually rich manuscripts of its time, with 84 miniatures (most Books of Hours have fifteen or so) marking its textual divisions.
Such a famous manuscript naturally has accumulated its share of disputatious opinions, all of which are examined by Clark on the way to his own conclusions. Isabel of Castille, Queen of Spain, was the manuscript’s second owner; in fact, Queen Juana Enriquez (d. 1468) was the first owner. Clark concludes, along with Otto Pächt, that the manuscript was probably copied for her by a Spanish scribe working in Bruges, where it was illuminated c.1455. Numerous scholars, including Bodo Brinkmann and Bernard Bousmanne, have attributed the majority of the miniatures to Willem Vrelant and finally, almost reluctantly, Clark agrees. In all, there are three hands: 79 miniatures are ascribed to Vrelant, four to an associate (Master of the Bruges Lepers’ House Missal), and Clark adds a third, more distinct but unidentified artist, responsible for one miniature. He also proposes an interesting interpretation to the much discussed 1468 payment to Vrelant for the Brussels Chroniques: that Vrelant was the entrepreneur in the project and not the artist. His discussion of collaboration in the production of a ‘trademark’ style is valid for manuscript illumination well beyond the confines of Bruges.
This compact commentary volume includes a full physical description, listing of miniatures and Offices, a Concordance of Spanish Calendar feasts, and comparative tables of the illustration cycles (which are iconographically complex, with unexpected subjects). It is only unfortunate that this rich monograph on an important manuscript is published in a form which denies it a wider audience.
Myra Dickman Orth