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The Book of Hours of James IV
Highlight of the Gent-Bruegger school of illumination
Vienna, Austrian National Library, Codex 1897, Gent-Bruges, 1503-1513



Further Pictures


The medieval Book of Hours was a very personalised type of book and is best exemplified in the Prayer Book of James IV and his wife Margaret Tudor. The wedding of the Scottish king and the daughter of the English sovereign Henry VII – a political dream of many who hoped for durable peace between the two countries – was celebrated in 1513 at Holyrood. Our Book of Hours probably constitutes the wedding gift of the groom to his bride. Whoever commissioned this work had entrusted one of the leading illuminator’s workshops with the production of his present.

65 miniatures made by superstars of the Gent-Bruges School

The design and layout of the manuscript is from the hands of several artists of the Gent-Bruges School, among them famous names of Flemish book painting: Gerald Horenbout, court painter Margaret of Austria, General Governor of the Netherlands, and the so-called Maximilian master. Their style is identifiable due to the perfect execution and the extremely imaginative and elaborate decoration of the page borders.
The calendar conveys a distant atmospheric effect through 12 sensational half-page landscape illustrations. The days of the months are arranged in pairs placed on opposing pages. Both writing and text are framed in Gothic tracery architecture and form a harmonious composition. The donators’ portraits depicting King James himself and his wife Margaret Tudor give reference to the original owners of the manuscript.

The Prayer Book is illustrated by 65 full-page miniatures which mark the chapter beginnings or are dispersed throughout the text. The rich and detailed decoration makes them unique examples of their kind. Both miniature and text pages are framed with borders showing blossoms, rinceaux and tiny creatures in a stunningly naturalistic style. The Prayer Book of James IV owes its outstanding significance not only to its position in history but also to its high art historic value. It ranks among the most important works ever made in a workshop of the Gent-Bruges School where Flemish illumination flourished and ultimately blossomed.

The facsimile edition

All 494 pages of the manuscript are reproduced in the original format of 20 x 14.5 cm, complete with 65 miniatures. All pages are framed with borders executed in the trompe-l’œil technique. The commentary volume provides a comprehensive explanation of the miniatures and expertly guides the reader through the historic and art historic background of the era of King James IV.

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