The Morgan Library & Museum announced this month the acquisition of an extremely rare manuscript leaf by the finest and most original illuminator of the Dutch Middle Ages, the Master of Catherine of Cleves. The work is from an otherwise lost Book of Hours and is the first to be discovered by the artist since 1980.
The Master of Catherine of Cleves was active in Utrecht, the Netherlands, from around 1430 to 1460. He is named after his masterpiece, the Hours of Catherine of Cleves, which is part of the Morgan’s collections, and only fifteen of his illuminated manuscripts survive. The newly discovered page contains the beginning of the Seven Penitential Psalms, written in Dutch, and the artist framed the text in an elaborate gold and foliate border. Figures depicted in the leaf include the Virgin Mary offering her milk to St. Bernard, David playing the harp, and two fighting birds.
“This is an extraordinary addition to the collections of our Department of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts and testimony to the connoisseurship and eagle eye of department head Roger Wieck,” said Morgan Director Colin B. Bailey. “The work of the Master of Catherine of Cleves is exceptionally scarce and any new discovery is an important development for art history. We are delighted that we can share the leaf with the public almost as soon as it arrives at the Morgan, and we are deeply grateful to the anonymous donor to the manuscript department who made the purchase possible.”
The Master of Catherine of Cleves decorated books of private devotion for wealthy and noble families and illustrated liturgical books and Bibles for members of the high-ranking clergy. Stylistically, the new leaf suggests the late phase of the artist’s career. This is evident in the thick, angular drapery, the muscular facial features of the Virgin Mary, and the border design and layout.