Pisanello, Portrait of Leonello d'Este, ca. 1441. Tempera on wood panel, 280 x 290 mm. Accademia Carrara, Bergamo, Italy.
The Llangattock Breviary, originally comprised of more than 500 leaves, was created as a luxury liturgical manuscript for Leonello d'Este (1407-1450), Marchese of Ferrara, by Giorgio d'Almagna and assistants during the years 1441-1448. Leonello was born into tremendous wealth that permitted him to serve as patron to the most eminent thinkers, writers, artists, and musicians of the day, including Guarino da Verona, Leon Battista Alberti, Giovanni Bellini, Andrea Mantegna, Pisanello, and Guilluame Dufay. Leonello's court at Ferrara was a center for artistic exchange and accomplishment, and he spared no expense for works of the highest quality.
Castello di San Michele, Ferrara, Italy. The Llangattock Breviary was probably made for the Este family chapel located in the nearby Palazzo Ducale, now known as the Palazzo Municipale.
After his father Niccolo III d'Este died in 1441, Leonello built a private chapel within the family palace in Ferrara and provided it with liturgical books and sumptuous furnishings. The latter included a cross of gilded silver, a gold rose (gift of Pope Eugenius IV), an altarpiece with an image of the crowned Virgin Mary, two crosses of silver, an incense burner, pairs of candlesticks, and silver chalices. For music he hired singers from France and installed an organ, which "he took the trouble to know how to play extremely well." Although Leonello's breviary was designed to be a showpiece, it is also likely that he actually used it, probably in the chapel he built.
Portrait of John Allan Rolls, 1st Baron of Llangattock, ca. 1880. Oil on canvas. Artist and dimensions unknown. Rolls Hall, Monmouth, Wales.
The Llangattock Breviary survived its original owner into the 19th century, when it is said to have been in a Spanish library, whole but with many initials cut out. It then came into possession of the Rolls family of Monmouth, Wales, and according to a Sotheby's sale catalog (25 April 1983, Lot 133, p. 199) included the bookplate of John Etherington Welch Rolls (1807-1870) and a note by his son John Allan Rolls: "Bought by my grandfather [John Rolls (1776-1837)]...Supposed to have been Peninsular loot. The pictures cut out by soldiers. J.A. Rolls. 1882." John Allan Rolls (1837-1912) became the 1st Baron Llangattock in 1892, succeeded by his son John Maclean Rolls (1870-1916), 2nd Baron Llangattock. John Allan Rolls was also the father of Charles Stewart Rolls (1877-1910), the aviation and automobile pioneer who with Frederick Henry Royce co-founded Rolls Royce in 1906.
The Hendre, Monmouth, Wales, home of the Barons Llangattock.
Homestead of the Rolls family, the Victorian mansion known as The Hendre was the home of the Llangattock Breviary from the early 19th century until 1958. The building was designed and expanded by a series of architects, including Sir Aston Webb (1849-1930), better known for the main facade of Buckingham Palace. At the Hendre the Llangattock Breviary shared space with another manuscript known as the Llangattock Hours. On 08 December 1958, both manuscripts were offered for sale at auction by Christie's, Lots 190 (LB) and 191 (LH). The Llangattock Hours eventually made its way to the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. The Llangattock Breviary, which at the time of the sale was still a bound book, was bought by Goodspeeds of Boston, who broke it apart and sold the detached leaves separately.