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Van Damme Hours

The Van Damme Hours

Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, MS M.451; Bruges, 1531

Created in the workshops of the renowned writer Antonius van Damme and the famous book painter Simon Bening, the Van Damme Hours are a testimony of the highest craftsmanship. This masterpiece from the last golden age of Flemish book painting is characterized by the freshness of its colors, the magnificent trompe-l’oeil borders and the charming calendar pages, which offer a fascinating insight into the everyday life of Flanders in the 16th century.

The Van Damme Hours, created around 1531 in Bruges, are one of the most beautiful works of the Flemish book art of the 16th century. On 258 pages, in 32 full-page miniatures and twelve richly ornamented calendar pages, a fascinating panorama unfolds in fresh, bright colors: vignettes, which tell of peasant work and aristocratic pleasure; religious scenes that radiate quiet, meditative dignity; lush, velvety landscapes; all wrapped in richly decorated floral decorations. The highly ornamental floral borders are set in fascinating contrast with the one-sided miniatures.

The Creation of a Masterpiece

The manuscript contains a selection of texts characteristic of an hour-book; among others, a calendar, the Office of the Virgin, penitential psalms, the litany, and a series of prayers. The magnificent Van Damme Hours are named after its writer, Antonius van Damme (active from 1495 to 1545). Although the painter, as usual, did not leave a signature, the miniatures are attributed to the Flemish book painter and probably the greatest miniature master of the 16th century, Simon Bening (1483-1561). 

The Van Damme Hours contain all the stylistic and iconographic elements typical of Bening‘s works: charming calendar scenes, dignified religious scenes, lush landscapes, trompe-l‘oeil edges, and accurate observation of details and textures of everyday objects such as textiles and musical instruments. The twelve calendar pages give a fascinating insight into everyday life in the Flanders of the 16th century.

Gorgeous Miniature Details 

Saturated reds and blues dominate the wonderful picture worlds of the hourbook. The edges of the manuscript are adorned with flowers in a loose stripe pattern. Bening created incredibly realistic miniatures. It almost seems as if the viewer could enter the picture and touch the figures. „Close-ups“, which place the figures in the miniatures close to the edge of the picture, dramatically reduce the distance between the viewer and the figure, and the viewer also feels emotionally closer to the figure. Bening is also characterized by its high sensitivity to landscapes and atmosphere. Many small brush strokes compose a texture that makes the landscapes in the manuscript as bright as light.

The Edition

True-to-the-original facsimile edition of the manuscript MS M.451 of the Morgan Library in New York. A total of 32 full-page miniatures, 12 calendar pages, and magnificent trompe l‘oeil borders illustrate the Van Damme Hours on 258 pages in the format of 7.4 x 5.6 cm. The edition is strictly limited to 882 copies worldwide. The cover of the normal edition is made of finest leather with rich gold embossing. The luxury edition, limited to just 98 copies, is bound in a reproduction of the original red velvet cover and is embellished by a genuine replica of the fantastic Venetian silver filigree work. The commentary on the edition is published by Roger S. Wieck, curator for the medieval and renaissance manuscripts of the Morgan Library in New York. 

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