"[Illuminated Leaf]", Anon.
Subject: Medieval Manuscripts
Period: 1480 (circa)
Color: Hand Color
5.2 x 7.1 inches
13.2 x 18 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 beautiful vellum leaf from a French Book of Hours was likely written in a Parisian scriptorium. The vellum is thin and high quality, and the text is written in a regular book hand. The fine panel of decorations on the recto includes acanthus leaves and flowers in red, blue, green and gold. The text is from a prayer to the Virgin, Obsecro te…, one of two special prayers to the Virgin that appear in nearly all Books of Hours. The other special prayer is known as O, intemerata. Part of the text on recto reads:
"[Et per quinque] vulnera filii tui, et per contractionem viscerum tuorum, prae nimio dolore vulnerum suorum, et per dolorem quem habuisti, quando vidisti eum vulnerari. Et per fontes sanguinis sui: et per omnem passionem eius, et dolorem cordis tui, et per fontes lacrymarum tuarum, ut cum omnibus sanctis et electis Dei venias, et festines in auxilium…"
This translates into English as: "And by those five wounds of thy son and by the sore shrinking together of thy inward parts, through the extreme grief of this wounds, and by the sorrow which thou hadst when thou didst behold him wounded. And by the fountains of his blood: and by all his passion, and sorrow of thy heart, and by the fountains of thy tears, that thou…"