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The Farnese Hours - Luxury Edition
Magnificent painting from the late Renaissance period nestled between two silver book covers
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, Ms M.69, Rome, around 1546



Further Pictures


The Farnese Hours is the most significant manuscript of Italian Renaissance and Mannerist art. It was made around 1546 in Rome, world capital of the arts, where such incomparable masters as Raphael and Michelangelo introduced a new artistic epoch. The most famous and eminent illuminator of the period was Croatian born Giulio Clovio who animated the Farnese Hours with his unique miniatures which appear at once monumental and delicate. Clovio created this very intimate prayer book for the famous cardinal Alessandro Farnese, one of the greatest art patrons of the 16th century. 26 full-page miniatures and 37 lavishly decorated text pages make the Farnese Hours one of the finest manuscripts in the history of art.

The commissioner and patron of the arts

His family long influenced the destiny of Rome, the most excellent artists of his time executed several works in his name, and he commissioned one of the finest manuscripts ever made in history: Cardinal Alessandro Farnese (1520–1589), a descendant of one of the most powerful dynasties in Italy. Alessandro descended in direct lineage from Pope Paul III and administered the priceless art collections of his family.

A ”Raphael of miniature painting”

Alessandro’s exquisite and demanding taste is also reflected in his prayer book for whose decorative apparatus he hired Croatian born Giulio Clovio (1498–1578), the most talented miniaturist of the Italian Renaissance. This book of hours clearly constitutes Clovio’s masterpiece. In its monumental miniatures, he achieved a degree of craftsmanship which earned him the surname of a ”new Michelangelo” or a ”Raphael of miniature painting”.

26 luminous miniatures and 37 gloriously decorated text pages

A total of 26 full-page, monumental facing miniatures show a unique and perfect amalgamation of Renaissance and Mannerist elements. Exquisite gold applications and luminous colours combine to a magnificent holistic work of art. The miniatures are paired according to the same typology – each time a scene from the Old Testament is faced with an episode of the New Testament. A further fascinating aspect of the Farnese Hours is its elaborate borders, framing the 37 decorated text pages with atmospheric landscapes, naturalistic still lives, impressive portraits and the best of grotesque motives.

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