"[Illuminated Leaf]", Anon.
Subject: Medieval Manuscripts
Period: 1480 (circa)
Color: Hand Color
5.3 x 7.8 inches
13.5 x 19.8 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 creamy vellum leaf is from an Italian book of hours, written in black, red and blue ink. One large initial on each side is also decorated with pen work. The text is from a famous song attributed to Saint Ambrose, beginning with the large initial "A" on the recto (Aurora lucis rutilat):
Light's glittering morn bedecks the sky,
heaven thunders forth its victor cry,
the glad earth shouts its triumph high,
and groaning hell makes wild reply:
While he, the King of glorious might,
treads down death's strength in death's despite,
and trampling hell by victor's right,
brings forth his sleeping Saints to light.