London, 30 November 2016--The Bute Hours, one of the most extraordinary Medieval English Book of Hours in existence, is to be auctioned at Sotheby’s London on 6 December 2016, with an estimate of £1.5 to 2.5 million, making it one of the most valuable English books to appear at auction. This lavish work includes more than 50 large miniatures and was probably made for a nobleman of the royal household who is depicted with his wife and children throughout the book.
English Books of Hours are extremely rare on the market, and this particular manuscript remains mostly unstudied. Lavishly adorned with elaborate miniatures, historiated borders and initials, this unique manuscript was produced by several different artists working in a homogeneous style, with an evident fondness for contemporary Netherlandish manuscript illumination, while also borrowing from German engravings. The richness of illustration in this Book of Hours is unparalleled in English illuminated manuscripts of the time, and is thus a reflection of the significant social status of its patron, who is depicted throughout the book.
The manuscript takes its modern name from the Marquesses of Bute, whose ancestral home is on the Isle of Bute, off the west coast of Scotland. The family traces its ancestry back to the 12th century, and is descended from kings of both Scotland and the United Kingdom. The manuscript was acquired for the Bute library by John Crichton-Stuart, 5th Marquess of Bute, who died in 1956; it passed with the title and properties (including six castles and an important art collection) to his eldest son John Crichton-Stuart (1933-93), who was born just 15 minutes before his twin brother, and thus became the 6th Marquess of Bute. In 1983, he sold a number of illuminated manuscripts at Sotheby's, including the Bute Hours.
The Berger Collection Educational Trust, Sold to Benefit Future Philanthropy
The Bute Hours comes to sale from the Berger Collection Educational Trust, sold to benefit future philanthropy. Both natives of Denver, William M. B. Berger and Bernadette Berger began their collecting activities in the 1990s with a passion that has rarely been matched. Over the course of just a few years, they amassed one of the most important collections of British Art in America, spanning over 600 years, as well as excellent examples of French, Italian and American paintings and drawings. The Bergers were dedicated to using art as a vehicle for education: “We have always believed that art, as well as music, poetry, and literature, refreshes and enriches our lives”, they said. In order to further their mission, they founded the Berger Collection Educational Trust.
The Trust’s mission focuses on British Art, culture and history, and uses the collection that the Bergers created to further its goals. It has sponsored numerous exhibitions throughout the United States devoted to British painting, as well as being a major supporter of the British Art Journal. The Trust administers, together with the Journal, the highly prestigious William M. B. Berger Prize for British Art History, awarded for excellence in the field.
In addition to the Bute Hours, a number of properties from The Berger Collection Educational Trust, will be sold at Sotheby’s New York & London in 2016 and 2017 to benefit future philanthropy.
Dr. John Wilson, Trustee, The Berger Collection Educational Trust, commented: “Bill and Bernadette Berger established the Berger Collection Educational Trust to demonstrate the role of British culture in influencing the Western Cultural Tradition in general, and American culture in particular. Their wide-ranging tastes and interests created a collection that allowed visitors to come face-to-face not only with significant paintings and works on paper, but also manuscripts, royal seals and important early books. Since its inception, the Trust has driven and supported educational activities promoting the history of British art, including programs at the Denver Art Museum and the Portland Museum of Art, and raised funds to further the mission of the Collection. The works on offer at Sotheby’s, many of which fall outside the British sphere, will be sold to further this mission.”