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The Rothschild Hours
67 Flemish miniatures of the highest quality
formerly Vienna, Austrian National Library, Cod. Vindob. S. N. 2844, Flanders, 1510-1520


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Further Pictures


The Rothschild Prayer Book belongs to the most beautiful and precious Books of Hours from the late period of the Livres d’Heures. Little known until the end of World War II, this masterpiece of Flemish book illumination was made in the period between 1510 and 1520 and destined for an unknown person of high rank.
With a large number of colourful miniatures, fantasy borders and sumptuous large initials, the Rothschild Prayer Book is outstanding among the numerous Flemish prayer books from the time between 1480 and 1520 which are all decorated with the highest artistic standards. The text is written in Latin and decorated throughout with countless small gold ornamented initials.

The content of the Rothschild Prayer Book is in line with the Books of Hours tradition which were made for laymen wishing to recite different prayers in private meditation. The prayer texts were additionally highlighted by illustrations, helping the believer to sink in meditation before a picture while reading in the book. The images of the Rothschild Prayer Book are all from the hands of outstanding artists who made this manuscript a unique example of book illumination.

The masters of the Rothschild Prayer Book

Several masters and probably some assistants who were active in the same workshop participated in the artistic design of the Rothschild Prayer Book as was the case for nearly all Flemish Books of Hours. It is the common work of at least five masters about whom personal information cannot be fully traced.
The greater part of the larger miniatures derive from Gerard Horenbout from Ghent, the celebrated court painter of Margret, the Austrian Governess in the Low Countries. His figures are full of vivacity and painted in a highly naturalistic manner which was formerly unknown to Flemish book painting.
Another, equally large portion, of the manuscript’s illustrations is the work of the Master of the Older Prayer Book of Maximilian I . Its miniatures reveal the artist’s high level of accomplishment and fascinate through the use of perspective and most minute detail.

The figures of the Master of Prayer Books all obey the same typology and are mostly small and strong, with their hair worn in strands. His miniature depicting the Resurrection of Lazarus shows the strong movement in the face of the resurrected and masterly executed groups of houses surrounded by space-enclosing trees, a clear testimony to his accomplishment.
Another illuminator was Gerard David or a very skilful pupil of his. This Flemish master was known especially for his panel paintings and excellently drawn figures placed in wonderfully composed landscapes.
Finally, two miniatures are attributed to the excellent book painter Simon Bening; they were made in his earlier period and are both of excellent quality.

The contents of the manuscript

A Calendar fills the first six first leaves of the Rothschild Prayer Book showing not only farming scenes throughout the year but also ornate with numerous medallions of the monthly saints. The Calendar is followed by devotions on the face of Christ, votive offices and masses for the days of the week, Gospel pericopes, the Office of the Virgin, the Penitential Psalms and the Memorials of the Saints, the Office of the Dead as well as prayers to the Virgin, Christ, the Angels and the Saints. The script is a regular Latin Textura (Gothic book hand) with numerous abbreviations, written throughout by the same scribe.

The commentary volume

The author of the comprehensive scholarly commentary, Ernst Trenkler, describes the codicological examination and the decorative apparatus of the manuscript. He also treats the history and former owners of the codex and places the artists in the context of the history of art.

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