The Hours of Mary of Burgundy (German : Stundenbuch der Maria von Burgund) is a book of hours, a form of devotional book for lay-people, completed in Flanders around 1477. It was probably commissioned for Mary, the ruler of the Burgundian Netherlands and then the wealthiest woman in Europe. No records survive as to its commission. The book contains 187 folios, each measuring 22.5 by 15 centimetres (8.9 in × 5.9 in). It consists of the Roman Liturgy of the Hours, 24 calendar roundels, 20 full-page miniatures and 16 quarter-page format illustrations. Its production began c. 1470, and includes miniatures by several artists, of which the foremost was the unidentified but influential illuminator known as the Master of Mary of Burgundy, who provides the book with its most meticulously detailed illustrations and borders. Other miniatures, considered of an older tradition, were contributed by Simon Marmion, Willem Vrelant and Lieven van Lathem. The majority of the calligraphy is attributed to Nicolas Spierinc, with whom the Master collaborated on other works and who may also have provided a number of illustrations.
The two best known illustrations contain a revolutionary trompe-l'oeil technique of showing a second perspective through an open window from the main pictorial setting. It is sometimes known as one of the black books of hours, due to the dark and sombre appearance of the first 34 pages, in which the gilded letter was written on black panels. The book has been described as "undoubtedly [...] among the most important works of art made in the late middle ages...a milestone in the history of art and one of the most precious objects of the late middle ages". Given the dark colourisation and mournful tone of the opening folios, the book may originally have been intended to mark the death of Mary's father, Charles, Duke of Burgundy, who died in 1477 at the Battle of Nancy. Midway through its production, it is thought to have been recommissioned as gift to celebrate Mary's marriage to Maximilian. Tonally, the early pages change from dark, sombre colours to a later sense of optimism and unity.
The book was for centuries known as the "Vienna Hours of Charles the Bold",and thought to have been intended to mark the death of Charles the Bold, ruler of the Burgundian Netherlands, at the Battle of Nancy on 5 January 1477, and thus as a book of mourning, intended for either his widow, Margaret of York, or his daughter, Mary. As Charles's sole heir, Mary became both the wealthiest woman in Europe and the last of her dynasty. The idea that it was originally a book of mourning is reinforced by the mournful appearance of the opening 34 pages, where the gold and silver lettering is placed on parchment that has been stained black, in a technique associated with the so-called black books of hours. Only seven of these Illuminated manuscripts survive today, all produced in the mid to late 15th century. Given their novel visual appeal, and the use of gold and silver leaf, they were more expensive and highly prized than more conventional books of hours, and produced for high-ranking members of the court of Philip the Good and Charles the Bold. The Burgundian court had a preference for dark, sombre colourisation and the extant works in this style were mostly commissioned for them. Only the wealthy nobility could have afforded such books, and the taste for mournful colours – often reflected in their dress style – was reflected in the black, gold and silver of these manuscripts.
After page 35, the parchment is predominantly left white and the images are lighter in tone.Given this change, the intention for the book may have changed from mourning to celebration: that is, its purpose changed from being a commemoration of Charles's death to a token of honour for Mary's marriage to Maximilian of Austria. This is indicated by the items on the window sill next to her in the Virgin in the Church illustration. Traditionally, pearls represent purity, and a transparent veil signifies virtue, while red carnations were often used as symbols of love. Evidence that it was commissioned for Mary include the feminine gender endings in some of the prayers and the recurring pairs of gold armorial shields throughout the book, indicating that it was prepared for an upcoming marriage. Art historian Antoine De Schryver argues that this change of purpose and the pressure of completion for the wedding date of August 1477 explains why so many individual artists were involved.
Work on the book is thought to have begun c. 1470.The Flemish artist Nicolas Spierinc, a favourite of the Burgundian court and Charles in particular, has been identified as the chief scribe of the elegant and complex calligraphy. There is speculation that the artist was active in Bruges at the end of the 15th century. He may have directed assistants to carry out some of the lettering, excepting key passages. An anagram of his name appears on the borders of the miniature on folio 94v, The Way to Calvary.
The miniatures were completed by a team of at least nine artists and illustrators,including Simon Marmion, attributed a single illustration, Willem Vrelant and Lieven van Lathem. Van Lathem is attributed with the "Christ before Pilate" miniature, which seems influenced by Hand K of the Turin-Milan Hours (c. 1420). Most attention is given to the innovative images attributed to the Master of Mary of Burgundy, known to have been active in Flanders between 1469 and 1483, and who was greatly influenced by the innovations of contemporary northern European panel painting, particularly the melancholy of Hugo van der Goes and the illusionism of Jan van Eyck. The Master is thought to have been the primary illuminator responsible for a second book commissioned by the family, the "Prayer Book of Charles the Bold", now in Berlin.
A majority have been specifically attributed to one of these artists, though there is some debate over a number.The illustrations can be characterised by the use of everyday devotional objects, including books, rosary beads and contemporary everyday settings, to frame images of divine saints and thereby bringing the sacred into domestic, earthly spaces.
The book consists of 186 original folios of 22.5 × 16.3 cm and three folios that were later additions, which measure 21.2 × 15.2 cm. In total there are 20 full-page miniatures, 14 smaller miniatures, 24 calendar sheets, 14 historiated initials and 78 ornamental borders. The text is preoccupied with the litany, and intercessory prayers.The margins on almost every page are decorated with drollerie consisting of flowers, insects, jewels and sibyls, some of which were designed by Lieven van Lathem. Those most praised by art historians were created by the Master of Mary of Burgundy. The marginalia and drolleries are painted in such a way as to suggest that objects are sprinkled over the foil in a three-dimensional manner that suggest, according to art historian Otto Pächt, that they seem not so much "in the imaginary space of the picture, but in that of the real world".
The book contains 20 full-page miniatures and 16 small format illustrations. They are all of the highest quality and can be mostly attributed to individual artists or hands. There are noticeable changes in standards and style between the miniatures attributed to the Master of Mary of Burgundy and those attributed to other hands. There is some commonality between the images; the idealised facial types are similar, and thin cumulus clouds appear throughout.
The Master's work is characterised by mixed colours that whiten toward the horizon, while in others they are saturated. He achieved the modelling of figures and objects by building layers of paint in thin but visible brush strokes, rather than hatching. His palette is noticeably darker than that of the other hands, mostly consisting of purples, browns and greys, with the areas around the figure's faces and hands coloured with black pigment.The art historian Thomas Kren says his miniatures in this book "constitute an art of profound emotion; subtle atmospheric effects; abundant, richly textured detail; and the most delicate draftsmanship. His miniatures convey a powerful sense of the moment".
The book's best-known miniatures, the Virgin and Child, Christ nailed to the Cross, and the Crucifixion, are attributed to the Master. Folio 14v shows the Virgin Mary in a Gothic church seen through the window of a room containing Mary of Burgundy at her devotions, reading from an open book,with the Virgin appearing as if the embodiment of Mary's prayers. In Folio 43v, Christ lies on his cross, in an expansive view of Calvary, seemingly viewed through a window. In both, the background scene becomes the main focus, with the foreground image merely providing the setting for the 'main stage'. It is because of these two miniatures that the Master is seen as the main innovator in bringing about a new style of Flemish illumination in the 1470s and 1480s, earning him a great number of imitators. The colourisation is often extremely subtle, with some illustrations containing upwards of eighteen different shades.
Mary of Burgundy can be identified as the woman in the foreground of folio 14v from the facial similarity to documented contemporary drawings and paintings.She is shown as an elegant young princess, reading a book of hours. Her finger traces the text of what seem to be the words Obsecro te Domina sancta maria ("I Beseech Thee, Holy Mary"), a popular prayer of indulgence in contemporary manuscript illuminations of donors venerating the Virgin and Child. Mary is positioned in an intimate and private domestic setting, probably a private chapel or oratory, reading a book of hours draped in a green cloth. A small white dog, a symbol of faithfulness, rests on her lap. She wears a gold or brown velvet dress, and a long hennin, from which hangs a transparent veil. The window before her is opened through two timber boards adorned with glass. Its ledge contains a veil, rosary beads, a gold chain with ruby and four pearls, two red carnations as symbols of betrothal, and a crystal vase containing a large flowering iris, a late medieval symbol of purity.
The Virgin and Child are visible through the open window as an "image within an image", as if as an apparition or the literal embodiment of the book she is reading. Thus Mary of Burgundy is placed in physical proximity to the Virgin, without the usual intercession of the saint.The holy family are seated in a Gothic church with a high vaulted ambulatory, before the high altar, in front of which is a lattice-patterned decorative carpet. Four angels sit at the corners of the carpet, each holding a gold candlestick marking the sacred space. Three court ladies, one looking outwards, are positioned to the left, kneeling with their hands clasped in prayer. One, probably Mary of Burgundy, wears a blue brocade and gown and holds a small book in her hands. The other two ladies seem to be her attendants. A male figure kneeling to the right is dressed in red and swings a censer of burning incense, while two other figures are positioned behind the high altar.
The use of an open window was influenced by van Eyck's c. 1435 oil-on-panel painting the Madonna of Chancellor Rolin , where the pictorial space is divided into two areas; a foreground chiaroscuro interior which leads out, through arcades, to an expansive bright-lit exterior landscape.In the Vienna miniature, the artist achieves the transition from foreground to background by slowly diminishing the figures' scale and plasticity. The illustration has been compared in breadth of detail and style to van Eyck's Madonna in the Church , a small panel painting, which is yet twice the size of the Master's illumination.
Folio 43v, Christ nailed to the Cross, shows a biblical scene viewed through the elaborately carved stone window of a contemporary late 15th century setting.The foreground interior scene is empty of people, but can again be assumed to be an oratory, and contains an array of attributes and objects of devotion, including a prayer book with black chemise binding, prayer beads, a brocade cushion and a number of jewels. The background composition consists of a complex exploration of perspective. The artist employs a central axis and vanishing point to create an aerial perspective of sophistication previously unseen in northern illumination. As art historian Susie Nash notes, "Mary [of Burgundy], looking at her prayer book, would see on this page a depiction of the accoutrements of prayer she might also be currently be using in reality, set around the real prayer book in which they are depicted".
The viewer is thus positioned, as if from the point of view of the reader of the book itself, outside of the main pictorial setting. The scene beyond the window contains a cast of characters numbering in the many hundreds, before an expansive landscape and threatening and gloomy sky. The vast panorama is achieved by the illuminator's skill in achieving depth, recession and scale.But the figure's distance from the viewer means that they are rendered in a rather vague and summary style. The figure of Christ seems modeled on a similar painting of the Crucifixion attributed to Gerard David, now in the National Gallery, London. The women, particularly at the front, wear a variety of exotic and extravagant headgear, of types also seen in the Virgin and Child, in folio 152v The Presentation in the Temple, from his Book of Hours of Engelbert of Nassau, and in attributed miniatures from the "Trivulzio Hours".
In the scene, two crosses have already been erected, on top of two small mounds. But there is no third, larger mound, which should be positioned between those of the thieves and bearing Christ's cross. Because of this anomaly, Nash believes the viewer's perspective is deliberately misleading; the viewer is not looking out towards Golgotha, but is on Golgotha.Nash suggests that this explains why a praying figure is absent from the room before the window – Mary is participating in the actual event. She further notes that Mary Magdalene, usually closely associated with the crucifixion, is also missing, and speculates that Mary be playing the role normally associated with the Magdalene.
The margins of the page are decorated with imaginative and somewhat whimsical flowers, insects and a jewel.The influence of van der Goes can be seen in the modelling of St John, who closely resembles the same figure in the earlier artist's The Fall of Man and The Lamentation of 1470–75.
The Crucifixion miniature, folio 99v, shows Christ and the two thieves raised on their crosses over a vast crowd which forms around them in a circular shape. Christ's body is twisted in pain, and painted with particular detail and skill. His chest rises heavily as he gasps for breath, while his body is rendered in delicate proportion.
The Virgin Mary, dressed in blue, and Mary Magdalene, dressed in red, kneel at the foot of his cross. According to Kren, the image achieves its immediacy through the "numerous figures in motion — writhing, gesturing, stepping, or just listening with head attentively inclined". As with the other miniatures attributed to the Master, a number of the figures look outwards, as if towards the viewer. The work shows a number of similarities to a Deposition in the J. Paul Getty Museum,also thought to be by the Master's hand.
Matthias, Holy Roman Emperor, acquired the book around 1580; he spent much of the period 1578–81 in the Netherlands. It disappeared after his death in 1619. It is thought to have been acquired by the Austrian National Library in Vienna c. 1721–27. The library was looted by Napoleon's troops in 1809, and the book was taken to Paris. It was returned to Vienna in 1815, following Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of Waterloo.It remains in the National Library of Austria, classified as Codex Vindobonensis 1857.
Jan van Eyck was a painter from the County of Loon active in Bruges. He is one of the early innovators of what became known as Early Netherlandish painting, and one of the most significant representatives of Early Northern Renaissance art. The surviving records of his early life indicate that he was born around 1380–1390, most likely in Maaseik, in present-day Belgium. He took employment in the Hague around 1422, when he was already a master painter with workshop assistants, and employed as painter and valet de chambre with John III the Pitiless, ruler of Holland and Hainaut. He was then employed in Lille as court painter to Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy after John's death in 1425, until he moved to Bruges in 1429 where he lived until his death. He was highly regarded by Philip and undertook a number of diplomatic visits abroad, including to Lisbon in 1428 to explore the possibility of a marriage contract between the duke and Isabella of Portugal.
Early Netherlandish painting is the work of artists, sometimes known as the Flemish Primitives, active in the Burgundian and Habsburg Netherlands during the 15th- and 16th-century Northern Renaissance, especially in the flourishing cities of Bruges, Ghent, Mechelen, Leuven, Tournai and Brussels, all in present-day Belgium. The period begins approximately with Robert Campin and Jan van Eyck in the 1420s and lasts at least until the death of Gerard David in 1523, although many scholars extend it to the start of the Dutch Revolt in 1566 or 1568. Early Netherlandish painting coincides with the Early and High Italian Renaissance but the early period is seen as an independent artistic evolution, separate from the Renaissance humanism that characterised developments in Italy, although beginning in the 1490s as increasing numbers of Netherlandish and other Northern painters traveled to Italy, Renaissance ideals and painting styles were incorporated into northern painting. As a result, Early Netherlandish painters are often categorised as belonging to both the Northern Renaissance and the Late or International Gothic.
The book of hours is a Christian devotional book popular in the Middle Ages. It is the most common type of surviving medieval illuminated manuscript. Like every manuscript, each manuscript book of hours is unique in one way or another, but most contain a similar collection of texts, prayers and psalms, often with appropriate decorations, for Christian devotion. Illumination or decoration is minimal in many examples, often restricted to decorated capital letters at the start of psalms and other prayers, but books made for wealthy patrons may be extremely lavish, with full-page miniatures. These illustrations would combine picturesque scenes of country life with sacred images. Books of hours were usually written in Latin, although there are many entirely or partially written in vernacular European languages, especially Dutch. The English term primer is usually now reserved for those books written in English. Tens of thousands of books of hours have survived to the present day, in libraries and private collections throughout the world.
The Froissart of Louis of Gruuthuse is a heavily illustrated deluxe illuminated manuscript in four volumes, containing a French text of Froissart's Chronicles, written and illuminated in the first half of the 1470s in Bruges, Flanders, in modern Belgium. The text of Froissart's Chronicles is preserved in more than 150 manuscript copies. This is one of the most lavishly illuminated examples, commissioned by Louis of Gruuthuse, a Flemish nobleman and bibliophile. Several leading Flemish illuminators worked on the miniatures.
Simon Marmion was a French and Burgundian Early Netherlandish painter of panels and illuminated manuscripts. Marmion lived and worked in what is now France but for most of his lifetime was part of the Duchy of Burgundy in the Southern Netherlands.
The Master of Anthony of Burgundy was a Flemish miniature painter active in Bruges between about 1460 and 1490, apparently running a large workshop, and producing some of the most sophisticated work of the final flowering of Flemish illumination. He was first identified by Winkler in 1921; his name is derived from one of his most elevated patrons, Anthony of Burgundy, Philip the Good's illegitimate son, though he also worked for the Dukes and other bibliophiles in Burgundian court circles, who had already been allocated "Masters" by art historians. His contributions to the heavily illustrated Froissart of Louis of Gruuthuse from the early 1470s, on which several of the leading illuminators of the day worked, show him excelling some more famous names, like Loiset Lyédet. The young Master of the Dresden Prayer Book worked as his assistant on this book, suggesting he was an apprentice; a number of other anonymous masters have been postulated as his pupils. Other works are in the libraries of Paris, Wrocław, Philadelphia, Munich, Cambridge University Library and elsewhere.
The Master of James IV of Scotland was a Flemish manuscript illuminator and painter most likely based in Ghent, or perhaps Bruges. Circumstantial evidence, including several larger panel paintings, indicates that he may be identical with Gerard Horenbout. He was the leading illuminator of the penultimate generation of Flemish illuminators. The painter's name is derived from a portrait of James IV of Scotland which, together with one of his Queen Margaret Tudor, is in the Prayer book of James IV and Queen Margaret, a book of hours commissioned by James and now in Vienna. He has been called one of the finest illuminators active in Flanders around 1500, and contributed to many lavish and important books besides directing an active studio of his own.
The Turin-Milan Hours is a partially destroyed illuminated manuscript, which despite its name is not strictly a book of hours. It is of exceptional quality and importance, with a very complicated history both during and after its production. It contains several miniatures of about 1420 attributed to an artist known as "Hand G" who was probably either Jan van Eyck, his brother Hubert van Eyck, or an artist very closely associated with them. About a decade or so later Barthélemy d'Eyck may have worked on some miniatures. Of the several portions of the book, that kept in Turin was destroyed in a fire in 1904, though black-and-white photographs exist.
The Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry, or Belles Heures of Jean de Berry is an early 15th-century illuminated manuscript book of hours commissioned by the French prince John, Duke of Berry, around 1409, and made for his use in private prayer and especially devotions to the Virgin Mary. The Belles Heures is one of the most celebrated manuscripts of the Middle Ages and very few books of hours are as richly decorated as it.
The Rothschild Prayerbook or Rothschild Hours, is an important Flemish illuminated manuscript book of hours, compiled c. 1500–20 by a number of artists.
The Isabella Breviary is a late 15th-century illuminated manuscript housed in the British Library, London. Queen Isabella I was given the manuscript shortly before 1497 by her ambassador Francisco de Rojas to commemorate the double marriage of her children and the children of Emperor Maximilian of Austria and Duchess Mary of Burgundy.
The Black Hours, MS M.493 is an illuminated book of hours completed in Bruges between 1460 and 1475, although dates as late as 1480 have been suggested. It consists of 121 leaves, most containing blocks of Latin text written in Gothic minuscule script. The words are arranged in rows of fourteen lines, and follow the Roman version of the texts. The lettering is inscribed in silver and gold, and placed within borders ornamented with flowers, foliage and grotesques, on pages dyed a deep blueish black. It contains fourteen full-page miniatures and opens with the months of the liturgical calendar, followed by the Hours of the Virgin, and ends with the Office of the Dead. It has been in the collection of the Morgan Library & Museum, New York, since 1912.
The Black Hours of Galeazzo Maria Sforza, M 1856 is an illuminated book of hours, now in the Austrian National Library in Vienna. The book used to be the property of Galeazzo Maria Sforza, the fifth Duke of Milan. It was produced in Bruges, Flanders, probably between 1466 and 1477. Its name derives from its black borders and dark colour scheme, also found in the New York Black Hours, Morgan MS 493, and of a type favoured by the Burgundian court. It is one of about seven surviving black books of hours, all luxury books from the circle of the Burgundian court around this time. It is identified by some with the Black Hours of Charles the Bold that is mentioned in contemporary records, but others disagree.
Jean Wauquelin presenting his 'Chroniques de Hainaut' to Philip the Good is a presentation miniature believed to have been painted by the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden. It decorates the frontispiece to the Chroniques de Hainaut, MS KBR.9242, a translation from Latin into French of a three volume history in of the County of Hainaut by Jean Wauquelin. The Latin text was originally written by the 14th century Franciscan historian Jacques de Guyse.
The Book of Hours of Simon de Varie is a French illuminated manuscript book of hours commissioned by the court official Simon de Varie, with miniatures attributed to at least four artists; hand A who may have been a workshop member of the Bedford Master, the anonymous illustrators known as the Master of Jean Rolin II, the Dunois Master and the French miniaturist Jean Fouquet. It was completed in 1455 and consists of 49 large miniatures and dozens of decorative vignettes and painted initials, which total over 80 decorations. Fouquet is known to have contributed six full leaf illuminations, including a masterwork Donor and Virgin diptych. A number of saints appear - Saint Simon is placed as usual alongside Saint Jude ; other pages feature saints Bernard of Menthon, James the Greater and Guillaume de Bourges.
A presentation miniature or dedication miniature is a miniature painting often found in illuminated manuscripts, in which the patron or donor is presented with a book, normally to be interpreted as the book containing the miniature itself. The miniature is thus symbolic, and presumably represents an event in the future. Usually it is found at the start of the volume, as a frontispiece before the main text, but may also be placed at the end, as in the Vivian Bible, or at the start of a particular text in a collection.
The Master of Mary of Burgundy was a Flemish illuminator, painter and draughtsman active between 1469-1483 in Flanders, probably in Ghent. His notname is derived from two books of hours attributed to him, the Vienna Hours of Mary of Burgundy and another books of hours, now in Berlin, also for Mary of Burgundy.
Nicolas Spierinc was a Flemish illuminator and scribe active in late 1400s. Works attributed to him include the lettering of the Hours of Mary of Burgundy. He was a student of medicine at the University at Louvain, later changing his profession to a scribe and illuminator, moving to Ghent, where he found success and wealth. He is known to have collaborated with both Lieven van Lathem and the Master of Mary of Burgundy on prayer books of hours.
Antoine Philippe De Schryver (1924–2005) was a Belgian art historian and professor at the University of Ghent, where he lectured on History of Book Illumination. He was specialized in the field of illuminated manuscripts in the Southern Netherlands, 15th century painting, and artists at the Burgundian Court.
The Spinola Book of Hours is a 312 folio illuminated manuscript book of hours with 88 miniature paintings, produced in Flanders between around 1510 and 1520 by a number of artists of the Ghent-Bruges school. It belonged to the Spinola family of Genoa and is now in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
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