"[Illuminated Leaf]", Anon.
Subject: Medieval Manuscripts
Period: 1470 (circa)
Color: Hand Color
4.5 x 6 inches
11.4 x 15.2 cm
Book of Hours were prayer books designed for the laity, but modeled on the Divine Office, a cycle of daily devotions, prayers and readings, performed by members of religious orders and the clergy. Its central text is the Hours of the Virgin. There are eight hours (times for prayer ): Matins, Lauds. Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline. During the Middle Ages, the leaves making up a Book of Hours were written by hand on expensive parchment and beautifully illuminated with jewel-like pigments and gold leaf. These illuminated manuscripts combined the collaborative efforts of an array of highly skilled craftspeople; requiring the joint labors of the parchmenter, professional scribes to write the text in Gothic script, artists to illuminate the pages with decorations, and masterful binders to complete the process.
This buttery vellum leaf is from a French Book of Hours, written in or near Rouen. The leaf is embellished with numerous initials and line fillers in red and blue ink and burnished gold. The Latin text is from the Office of the Dead, the psalms and prayers for relatives and friends who were suffering in purgatory. This passage is from Canticle of Ezechias, Isaias 38:13-18, and the text translates as:
I hoped, even until morning. Like a lion, so has he crushed all my bones. From morning until evening, you have marked my limits.
I will cry out, like a young swallow. I will meditate, like a dove. My eyes have been weakened by gazing upward. O Lord, I suffer violence! Answer in my favor.
What can I say, or what would he answer me, since he himself has done this? I will acknowledge to you all my years, in the bitterness of my soul.
O Lord, if such is life, and if the life of my spirit is of such a kind, may you correct me and may you cause me to live.
Behold, in peace my bitterness is most bitter. But you have rescued my soul, so that it would not perish. You have cast all my sins behind your back.
For Hell will not confess to you, and death will not praise you. Those who descend into the pit will not hope for your truth.