Among the first sales to take place was the auction of part of the Library of Robert Beauvillain held by Binoche et Giquello (24/20.5/17% buyer’s premium) on June 5.
Beauvillain assembled his collection during the early years of the 20th century. The 300 books were an eclectic ensemble ranging from early illuminated manuscripts via antiquarian books to 20th century fine bindings.
The highlights, as predicted, were two early illuminated French books of hours from the first years of the 15th and 16th century.
Topping the list at a within-estimate €600,000 (£545,455) was a book of hours, use of Rome, written in Latin and French dating from the early years of the French Renaissance, c.1500-10.
This was richly illuminated with miniatures by the so-called Master of Spencer 6.
The actual identity of the artist, who was working in Bourges between 1495-1510, is not known but his name is taken from a book of hours which is now in the Spencer collection of the New York Public Library.
Beauvillain’s book of hours has no fewer than 28 large miniatures; 35 smaller ones and four illuminated initials by this artist as well as three more by another artist. The Master of Spencer 6 favours subjects such as scenes of hunting and boats and his illustrations include exotic elements like the depiction of an elephant ridden by one of the Magi.
The artist also pays attention to details of contemporary costume, so the manuscript reveals what was fashionable to wear among the wealthy at this time, showing the influence of Renaissance Italy.
The second book of hours was an earlier, c.1400, featuring illumination by an artist from the circle of painters active in the service of the Duc de Berry (1340-1416) the so-called golden age of illumination.
This Latin manuscript is also use of Rome and is decorated with 13 large miniatures attributed to the artist known as the Maitre de Lucon (or Maitre d’Etienne Loypeau) active between 1390-1415/17.
The work has an interesting provenance. Its 17th century owners, Marie Deschevert et Pierre Soppite, are known as they have inscribed their names in the manuscript. Pierre Soppite, Sieur of Louveciennes, was an adviser and valet de chambre to the king.
It was subsequently owned by the art collector Louis Robert de Saint-Victor (1738-1822), featured in the 1843 sale of the Collection Clicquot in Rheims and was then acquired by Alfred Bonnardot, a historian and bibliophile, before entering the Beauvillain library.
This manuscript outstripped its €250,000-350,000 estimate to sell for €550,000 (£500,000).
£1 = €1.10