ST JOHN THE EVANGELIST
A single leaf, vellum, 5 x 3.5. Tours, about 1480. Slightly soiled but in good
condition, mounted and bound in quarter leather.
Given by G. Udny Yule, Fellow of St John’s, 1950.
Description from an unidentified sale catalogue as follows:
A leaf from a 15th century Horae with two half-page miniatures depicting St John in the cauldron of boiling oil and St John holding the chalice of poisoned wine.
A most interesting miniature of the school of Tours, which although it cannot be claimed to be by the hand of the famous Egregius Pictor Franciscus, is undoubtedly from the atelier of which he was the master or the most skilled artist. The work of this artist is fully discussed in Laborde, Les manuscripts à peintures de la Cité de Dieu de Saint Augustin (Paris, 1909), and some of his distinguishing characteristics, e.g., the red knee boots, the curious turban-like domed hats, the use of gold on the costume of nearly every person, and the buildings with domed towers which form the background in many instances, are all present in one or other of the two miniatures on the present leaf.
The upper miniature which occupies half the page shows St John, his hands in an attitude of prayer, standing in the cauldron of boiling oil above a fire. Around him are four men, one ladling more oil into the cauldron, one blowing the fire with bellows, and the other two, one on his knees in the foreground, stoking it with sticks. Two of the men wear blue surcoats and one has red boots. To the right of the miniature is a group of eight men, some in an attitude of prayer and one directing the proceedings; on either side and extending to and across the background are the towers, walls and roofs of various buildings and castles. On the ground is a basket of coals and a bundle of faggots. Immediately below and slightly to the left is a gold panel containing the first sentence of the Gospel of St John. Below and to the right is the second miniature, an interior scene depicting, on the right, St John holding the cup from which issues a serpent. He is being pulled back by a man in a blue surcoat and green boots, before him on the ground lie the two dead malefactors and on the left is seated a figure in a blue surcoat and red boots who is brandishing a sword. In the background are six men in monkish robes looking at the dead bodies in attitudes of dismay. The miniature is framed by two green pillars with bases and capitals of gold and supporting a golden beam. Both these miniatures are painted with great skill and are of a most lively and vigorous composition.