Rothschild Prayerbook to go on sale in January

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The centrepiece of the Renaissance sale held by Christie’s New York during Old Masters Week, January 2014, will be The Rothschild Prayerbook, a masterpiece of Renaissance art with an illustrious provenance.

Returning to the global stage after setting the world auction record for illuminated manuscripts nearly 15 years ago at Christie’s London, the prayerbook contains lavish and extensive illustrations by the most renowned illuminators of their day, including miniatures of great beauty and refined execution. Arguably the finest illuminated manuscript in private hands, it is expected to inspire fierce competition, with an estimate of $12 million -$18 million. It is scheduled for a world exhibition tour to Moscow, Hong Kong and London before it is offered for sale at Christie’s Rockefeller Center saleroom on January 29, 2014.

Made for a member of the imperial court in the Netherlands c. 1505, this hand-painted manuscript, a Book of Hours, joined the fabled collections of the Rothschild family in the 19th century. In 1999, when the collection of the Barons Nathaniel and Albert von Rothschild was entrusted to Christie’s in London, the Rothschild Prayerbook sold for $13.4 million, both a world record for its category and the highest price of all the works in the renowned collection.

This prayerbook is one of the highest achievements of Flemish Renaissance painting with 150 pages and miniatures and borders of superlative quality by Gerard Horenbout, Simon Bening and probably Alexander Bening, the father of Simon. One miniature, the Virgin and Child on a Crescent Moon, is accepted as one of a select group of illuminations by the painter Gerard David.

Nicholas Hall, international co-chairman of Old Masters & 19th-Century Art for Christie’s, said: “Every aspect of this Book of Hours – from the quality of the parchment to the wealth and refinement of the decoration – marks the Rothschild Prayerbook as one of the most prestigious and exquisite examples of Flemish manuscript illumination.

“Christie’s is honoured to be entrusted with its sale for the second time in a generation. We are excited to include it as the centerpiece of a global tour of highlights from our Old Masters Week, giving collectors around the world an opportunity to see this beautifully rendered and remarkably well-preserved work.”