Home    News    Newsletter    Press    Contact    Imprint    ADEVA    Partners           Deutsch
  Fine Art Facsimile Editions
Facsimile Cassettes
  New Books
  Book Art
  Encyclopedias / Reprints
  History of Art

The Hours of Mary of Burgundy
Enchanting Flemish miniatures for the most famous women of the Middle Ages
Vienna, Austrian National Library, Cod. Vindob. 1857, Flanders, 1470-1480



Further Pictures


Available as Vol. 3 of the series "Glanzlichter der Buchkunst"

The Book of Hours of Mary of Burgundy, daughter of Charles the Bold, was made when book illumination had reached its peak, at a time when there were already printed books around; however, this period also saw the production of precious hand-written codices, especially in the Netherlands and in France. This book of hours, with its magnificent miniatures and scrollwork reflecting the splendour of the Burgundian court, was a gift of Marguerite of York to her stepdaughter Mary.
The codex is well known among art historians and connoisseurs of book painting alike. Its outstandingly beautiful decoration makes it one of those manuscripts which both fascinate and astonish the reader on every single page. Besides miniatures of Flemish origin, it also contains some of the most splendid compositions by leading artists of the Burgundian court.

All 378 pages (189 folios) of the prayer book fascinate by their artful decoration. The first 34 leaves containing the Calendar excel by a special technique which seems well worth mentioning: the text is hand written in gold and silver ink on a black ground. With a total of 20 full-page miniatures, the book raises the curtain on everyday life and thinking in the Burgundian period. Each text page of the book is embellished with ornamental borders, drolleries, phantastic decorations and rich calligraphic elements. Only top artists were asked to make their contribution to this holistic work of art.

The masters of the Book of Hours

The production of a richly artful, illuminated book of hours was usually the work of a team. While a calligrapher was in charge of the writing, the ornamental borders were executed by a technically competent miniaturist who based his work on existing models or even prefabricated stencils. The illustrations as such were added by a different master at a later stage.
A book of hours entrusted to a number of different masters would most likely suffer in its uniform identity. The person in charge of the overall planning and selection of the artists would therefore be anxious to choose painters of an equal level of accomplishment. The result is clearly visible in this work which combines the foremost achievements of Flemish book painting in the late seventies of the 15th century.

Reflections of a luxurious court life

By today’s standards, the luxurious decoration of this book of hours does not always correspond with the character of a book of meditation. Although the illustrations show religious scenes, their composition and details are above all masterpieces of painting, as the emphasis seems to be more on artistic execution than on contents.
This book most impressively presents not only the way of thinking prevalent during the heyday of the Burgundian court but also documents the courtly society of this period. The reader’s gaze is often pleasantly diverted from the contents of the picture, by idyllic landscape backgrounds, magnificent architecture or fashionable and elegant clothing, not to mention the numerous amusing figures in the margins.
If our secular age takes offence at the profane decoration of prayer books, this is because we have forgotten that people of these times were quite innocent of our radical separation of the spiritual and the secular today; they had a holistic Christian conception of the world in which the beautiful and the serene were present, side by side with the Holy.

The commentary

The expert commentary completing the facsimile edition was written by Franz Unterkirchner, former Director of the Manuscript Department at the Austrian National Library, who gives a codicological description (German), and by Antoine De Schryver whose contribution provides an insight into the Book of Hours of Mary of Burgundy from an art historian’s point of view (French). De Schryvers found no proof for the assumption that the prayer book once belonged to Charles the Bold and suggests that it was rather made for his daughter Mary of Burgundy.

  European Illuminated Manuscripts
  European Text Manuscripts
  American Manuscripts
  Oriental Manuscripts
  Music Manuscripts
  Documentations Facsimile Cassettes
  Alphabetical Index
  Chronological Index
  Thematic Index

70 Years of ADEVA


ADEVA - Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt Graz - A-8042 Graz, St. Peter Hauptstraße 98 - Tel/Phone: +43 (0)316 46 3003 - Fax +43 (0)316 46 3003-24