The miniatures and cuttings from medieval and Renaissance manuscripts in the Robert Lehman Collection represent the major schools of illumination that flourished in Europe from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century. Robert Lehman must have considered illuminations above all an extension of his great collection of Italian, French, German, and Netherlandish paintings. In a broader sense, they manifested one more facet of the interest in early European art that led him also to collect exceptional Netherlandish and German drawings of the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries.
Among the small but choice selection of illuminations catalogued here are a leaf painted for the Hours of Étienne Chevalier by Jean Fouquet, the most celebrated French painter of the fifteenth century; a miniature by the "prince d'enluminure," Simon Marmion, painted for a Breviary for Charles the Bold and Margaret of York; and, among the Italian cuttings, a Last Judgment in an Initial C by the great Florentine painter Lorenzo Monaco and an Adoration of the Magi by Francesco Marmitta that is accompanied by a letter attesting to its sixteenth-century papal provenance. A Self-portrait by Simon Bening and a Virgin and Child signed by Francesco Morone are early instances of small paintings on parchment conceived as independent works of art rather than illustrations for manuscripts. A miniature Holy Face by Gerard David may have been meant as an independent devotional image, or it could as easily have illuminated a book. A biography of each artist and copious illustrations supplement the extensive catalogue entries, which place each of the illuminations in an art historical context that is as specific as possible.