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The Hours of the Flemish Masters

The Hours of the Flemish Masters

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The Hours of the Flemish Masters

Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, MS 21/63.256; Gent/Brughes, End of 15th century

The Hours of the Flemish Masters are undoubtedly one of the most elegant Flemish manuscripts of the Renaissance. The manuscript was created in the 15th century in Bruges and Ghent in a collaboration between the most renowned Flemish book painters of their time. On 558 pages in the format of 23.5 x 17.3 cm there are 40 exquisitely decorated full-page miniatures, 10 half-page miniatures and 24 calendar medallions as well as more than 300 border decorations. 

A Prayer Book for the Queen of Spain

The elegant typeface of the codex comes from the use of the Gothic Textura. The manuscript contains the texts characteristic of a book of hours; among them a calendar, the Offices of the Virgin and of the Dead, penitential psalms, the litany, as well as a series of prayers, all illustrated by rich book decoration. This phantastic manuscript was made for Queen Isabella I of Castile (1451-1504), also called Isabella the Catholic. Isabella, together with her husband, King Ferdinand V, is now known through her association with Christopher Columbus and the „discovery“ of the American continent.

A Cooperation of the Finest Masters of Book Painting

The prestige of the recipient of the manuscript is reflected in its creators: the most renowned masters of their time: Alexander Bening, who is credited with at least half the miniatures of the diary; the master of the First Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian; Gerard David; the master of the hours of Jacob IV of Scotland, and the so-called Master of Prayer Books around 1500. Together they created a masterpiece of Flemish book-making, worthy of a queen. All of them were great visual story-tellers whose miniatures show moving human stories in every scene throughout the book.

Flower Decoration as Trompe-l’oeil

This sumptuous codex, besides its masterly miniatures, is characterized by its edge decorations, composed of a variety of flowers in a loose streak pattern, wavy acanthus leaves, birds and butterflies. These realistic elements cast shadows on the colored grounds of the edges, which give rise to a trompe-l‘oeil effect; a significant innovation of the painters of the Ghent-Bruges school. 

Detailed trompe-l‘oeil decorations, expressive miniatures, brilliant colors and lush landscapes: originated at a time when Flemish miniatures were highly popular all over Europe, the opulent Hours of the Flemish Masters are a true masterpiece of its genre – its iconographic and decorative apparatus represents a highlight of the famous Flemish style. The manuscript originates from the workshops of the most famous painters of the Ghent-Bruges school, and was made for Queen Isabella I of Castile, a great admirer of Flemish book art.

The Edition 

True-to-the-original reproduction of the manuscript with 40 richly decorated full-page and 10 half-page miniatures, 24 calendar medallions and more than 300 decoration frames. 558 pages in the format of 23,5 x 17,3 cm. The edition is strictly limited to 980 copies worldwide. The precious cover in red velvet bears the coat of arms of Isabel la Católica, embossed in leather.

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