Depicting Devotion: Illuminated Books of Hours from the Middle Ages

Washington University Libraries, Department of Special Collections, St. Louis, Winter 2001-2001

Table of Contents
Introduction
Essay
Books of Hours
I Calendar
II Gospel Lessons
III Hours of the Virgin
IV Hours of the Cross
V Additional Prayers to the Virgin
VI Hours of the Holy Spirit
VII Penitential Psalms
VIII Office of the Dead
IX Accessory Texts
X Peacocks and Eggs
Bibliography

Online Exhibitions
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Books of Hours

Root of Jesse MS 4
Flemish, ca. 1480s-1490s
stylistically closer to Ghent than Bruges
19.5 cm by 13.3 cm, BX2080/A4/ca. 1450


Root of Jesse
The Root of Jesse literally sprouts from the chest of the reposing Jesse, the father of King David. Mary stands at the top of the genealogical tree as the virgin (Latin virgo) who exemplifies the prophecy of Isaiah (playing upon the similarity of the Latin words for virgin and shoot): "a shoot (Latin virga) shall grow from the stock of Jesse" (Isaiah 11:1-3). The prophecy held that Jesse would produce a lineage that would culminate in the coming of Christ. This illumination introduces the Hours of the Virgin (see section III ).


St. John and the Seven-headed Dragon MS 8
Probably Parisian, late 15th C., could be ca. 1490s
very standard late 15th C. style, stylistically similar to work of Jean Bourdichon
17.5 cm. by 11.7 cm, BX2080/L75/late 15th C.


St. John and Seven-headed Dragon
The evangelist John appears on Patmos with his writing implements and eagle, as usual. What differs in this illumination is the presence of the seven-headed dragon, a memorable figure vividly described in the Apocalypse (also called Revelation, 12:3-4), the text that John wrote while on Patmos.


The Symbols of the Evangelists MS 6
Paris ca. 1450
possibly the work of a follower of the Bedford Master
20 cm by 13 cm, BX2080/R72/ca. 1450


The Symbols of the Evangelists
Typically the evangelists appear with their symbols beside them. In this illumination, the symbols stand in for their referents. These symbols (see section II for further information) occurred with enough frequency that they could stand alone. These figures are traditionally winged, signifying divine mission. They surround God and each holds an identifying scroll.


The Annunciation to the Shepherds MS 5
Flemish, ca. 1460
stylistically related to Loyset Liedet
19.3 cm. by 13.2 cm., BX2080/L79/ca. 1450


The Annunciation to the Shepherds
See The Annunciation to the Shepherds , section III .


Flight into Egypt MS 9
France, late 15th C. (possibly even early 16th C.)
stylistically mechanical and workmanlike
17.5 cm. by 13 cm., BX2080/L73/late 15th C.

Flight into Egypt
See Flight into Egypt , section III .

Pentecost MS 2
Northern France (probably Paris), ca. 1420
strong resemblance to the work of the Boucicaut Master, though not his work; probably produced by a follower or in the workshop of a follower 19.6 cm. by 13.5 cm., BX2080/L77/early 15th C.


Pentecost
A very colorful depiction of Pentecost. Mary quite prominently sits in the middle; divine rays descend upon them (rather than tongues; see section VI ).


David Gazing at Bathsheba MS 7
France, ca. teens or 1520s
resembles work of the Master of Morgan 85;
possibly the work of a follower of the Master of Petrarch's Triumphs
16.3 cm. by 11.5 cm., BX2080/R57/ca. 1530


David Gazing at Bathsheba
David observing the bathing Bathsheba was a popular image. This scene is the precursor for later scenes of David as penitent.

St. Sebastian and St. Christopher MS 1
Northern France (more provincial than Parisian), early 15th C.|
resembles work of Master of the Margaret D'Orleans; possibly work of a follower
20.4 cm by 14 cm., BX2080/L71/early 15th C.



St. Sebastian and St. Christopher St. Sebastian, depicted with arrows, makes many appearances in Books of Hours. According to the Legenda Aurea , his relics helped stop a plague in Italy. Subsequently, he was invoked to aid plague victims, and hence his popularity. St. Christopher was an intercessor for travelers. St. Christopher (whose name literally means “the one who carries Christ”) was a giant who carried the infant Christ across a river.

Departure from the Church MS 10
Probably Flemish, (1st-) 2nd quarter of the 15th C.
very eccentric artist
22.5 cm. by 16 cm., BX2080/R5/15th C.



Departure from the Church
See Office of the Dead , section VIII


Virgin holding an egg, with Peacock MS 3
Flemish, ca. 1460
resembles the work of Guillaume Vrelant (Bruges) and the Master of the Gold Scrolls
17.36 cm. by 12 cm., NX2080/R51/15th C.



Virgin holding an egg, with Peacock
In a unique portrayal, the Virgin appears here outside her room with the infant Christ and a red egg. The Virgin holding the egg shows her hand in the matter and foreshadows Christ's resurrection. The peacock, making his appearance behind the Virgin and Child, further emphasizes the immortal life brought into effect by Christ's resurrection.


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