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The Hours of Isabeau de Croix
(c. 1430–50), Miniatures by the Master of the Harvard Hannibal, the Master of the Munich Golden Legend, and the Dunois Master
This spectacular and unpublished Book of Hours was discovered in a religious house on the east coast of America. It is of exceptional size, in flawless condition, and profusely illustrated by two – perhaps three – of the greatest, and most original, artists working in Paris in the second quarter of the 15th century. As well as featuring 69 large miniatures, every page is illuminated: there is so much jewel-like ornament and highly burnished gold that its pages dazzle. Highlights among its pages include a serene St Catherine, a princess renowned for her beauty and learning, kneels in an idyllic landscape as her executioner, watched by the pagan emperor Maxentius, raises his sword to strike off her head. In the heavens above, an angel, rather than Catherine herself, shatters the spiked breaking wheel that was to have been the instrument of her torture.