Rare Medieval masterpieces to auction at Christie's

Christie's is offering the first part of an extensive selection of exceptional medieval and renaissance masterpieces on July 7, in London.

The Arcana Collection: Exceptional Illuminated Manuscripts and Incunabula Part I is an outstanding private collection which has been assembled over the past three decades.

It includes personal prayer books made for Royals, Bishops, Aristocracy and other important patrons from the 13th-16th centuries.

The Cauchon Hours, from the mid-15th century (£800,000-£1.2m)

These include King François I of France, a leading patron of Leonardo da Vinci and the first owner of his masterpiece The Mona Lisa; as well as King Henry IV of France and Elizabeth de Bohun, great grandmother of King Henry V of England.

The collection will offer 48 lots, with an overall estimate of £11m-£16m.

The Arcana Collection was compiled
over three decades

It will be on public exhibition for the first time alongside Christie's July auction of Old Masters and 19th century Art from July 3-7.

"This is a truly exceptional collection which presents illuminated manuscripts and incunabula in all their glory," said Margaret Ford, Head of Books and Manuscripts at Christie's.

"The Arcana collection offers the best examples of their type, ranging from Books of Hours to works of literature and on the natural world.  

"The beauty of the page is often complemented by the importance of the text, exceptional, original condition, and interesting, even highly distinguished, subsequent ownership," she said.

Among the highlights is a Book of Hours opulently illuminated for King François I of France (pictured top right) by the Master François de Rohan, expected to realise £300,000-£500,000.

Also appearing is a manuscript Bible produced in Italy in the middle of the 13th century with extensive and exquisite painted illustration.

A manuscript Bible, produced in Italy in the middle of the 13th century

It was apparently made for the use of a convent of Dominican friars, but the borders include diverting genre scenes and fantastical creations far from the routine religious illustrations that one might expect. It carries a remarkable estimate of £2.5m-£3.5m.

Another lot, the Cauchon Hours, was made in the middle of the 15th century for a noble couple from Rheims who are portrayed as a knight in armour and his elegantly robed lady.

The miniatures are accompanied by enchanting vignettes, both reflections of their daily surroundings and engaging inventions. This masterpiece of medieval charm will auction at Christie's priced £800,000-£1.2m.


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