Catalog Archive
Auction 99, Lot 568

"[Illuminated Leaf]", Anon.

Subject: Medieval Manuscripts

Period: 1450 (circa)

Publication: Book of Hours


6.3 x 8.3 inches
16 x 21.1 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.

A splendid velum leaf with extensive illumination in the margins of both sides. The decoration consists of flowers and acanthus leaves in pastel shades, initials in red, blue and white and sparkling gold leaf. There are 8 initials and 6 line fillers. The text is from the Office of the Dead that contained prayers to speed a person's loved ones through Purgatory. The ideal Christian death took place at home, in bed, surrounded by relatives and, most importantly, having confessed, been forgiven, and having received Last Communion and Extreme Unction. Such a death cleansed the soul and ensured its immediate entry into heaven. For those souls who were less fortunate a detour into purgatory could potentially last thousands of years. Along with the funding of funerary Masses, praying the Office was considered the most efficacious means of reducing this fiery price of obtaining paradise.


Condition: A

Small flaw in vellum affecting the illuminations on recto and blank margin on verso.

Estimate: $475 - $550

Sold for: $350

Closed on 6/12/2002