"[Illuminated Leaf]", Anon.
Subject: Medieval Manuscripts
Period: 1470 (circa)
Color: Hand Color
4.5 x 6.1 inches
11.4 x 15.5 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 one large and nine small initials and five line fillers in red and blue ink and burnished gold. The verso also includes a decorative panel with leaves and flowers. The 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 38:10-12, and the text reads (beginning at the large initial on verso):
I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave: I am deprived of the residue of my years.
I said, I shall not see the LORD, even the LORD, in the land of the living: I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world.
Mine age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd's tent: I have cut off like a weaver my life: he will cut me off with pining sickness: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me.
I reckoned till morning, that, as a lion, so will he break all my bones: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me.
Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove: mine eyes fail with looking upward: O LORD, I am oppressed; undertake for me.
Minor marginal soiling.