Les Enluminures


Book of Hours (Use of Paris)
In Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on parchment
France, Paris, c. 1500
With 15 large and 10 small miniatures by an artist in the circle of the Master of the Paris Entries

An appealing example of a classic, absolutely localizable Parisian Book of Hours. Illuminated at the beginning of the age of print, it features some quirky oddities and less common prayers. The striking full-page miniatures are all the work of one distinctive but as of yet unrecognized hand. It later belonged to the celebrated art collector and monumental bibliophile Sir Alfred Chester Beatty.

3 (paper) + 153 folios (last blank) + 2 (paper), foliated in pencil, collation: 1-26, 3-108, 114, 12-198, 206, 213 (probably of 4, lacking iii, last leaf of text), the present quire 8 is misbound and should follow quire 6 (they are foliated correctly and this description follows the foliation), ruled in pale brown, the ruled space 82 x 55 mm, written in a small gothic book hand with 16 lines in dark brown ink, rubrics in pale red, calendar in alternate lines of red and blue with principal entries in burnished gold, one- to 3-line initials throughout in burnished gold on red and blue grounds with white tracery, panel borders throughout on every page with a 2-line initial in designs of blue and gold acanthus leaves interspersed with compartments enclosing coloured flowers and fruit on liquid gold grounds, ten small miniatures (mostly 7 lines high) with similar three-quarter borders, fifteen large miniatures in arched compartments above large initials and 4 lines of text all within full borders, occasional minor rubbing (especially where pigments were mixed with white) and occasional spots of wear but overall in excellent condition, nineteenth-century blind-stamped red velvet, pale blue watered silk endleaves, gilt edges, binding a little worn in joints. Dimensions 150 x 110 mm.


1. The manuscript is Parisian through and through.  The text is of the Use of Paris.  The calendar is in alternate lines of red and blue with major entries in gold, characteristically Parisian, and it singles out Saints Geneviève, Louis and Denis in burnished gold, including the rare second feast of Saint Geneviève on 26 November commemorating her miraculous cure of those suffering the burning sickness in 1129 (Perdrizet 1933, pp. 263-4).  All three saints are in the litany.

2. Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (1875-1968), mining magnate, one of the greatest of all twentieth-century collectors of illuminated manuscripts and other works of art, including Impressionist paintings (he owned Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, for example), and founder of the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin; with his pencil signature on the flyleaf; perhaps bought from Leo S. Olschki, cat. 74 (1910), no. 40.

3. Acquired privately in North America.


ff. 1r-12v, a calendar, in French, with entries for every day.

ff. 13r-18r, the Gospel Sequences, followed by the Obsecro te (ff. 18r-21v, in male form) and O intemerata (ff. 21v-23v).

ff. 19r-80r, the Hours of the Virgin, Use of Paris.

ff. 81r-96v, the Penitential Psalms and Litany, followed by short prayers.

ff. 97r-99v, the Hours of the Cross and (ff. 100r-102v) the Hours of the Holy Ghost.

ff. 103r-141r, the Office of the Dead,

ff. 142r-149r, prayers in French, the Quinze Joyes (“Douce dame de misericorde …”, 142r-146v) and the Sept Requêtes (“Doulz dieu doulx pere …”, 147r-149v).

ff. 150r-152v, Suffrages of the saints, headings in French, ending imperfectly.


The subjects of the fifteen large miniatures are:

f. 13r, Saint John on Patmos;

f. 24r, the Annunciation;

f. 43r, the Visitation;

f. 53r, the Nativity;

f. 58r, the Annunciation to the Shepherds;

f. 62r, the Adoration of the Magi;

f. 66r, the Circumcision;

f. 70r, the Massacre of the Innocents;

f. 76r, the Coronation of the Virgin;

f. 81r, David in prayer;

f. 97r, the Crucifixion;

f. 100r, Pentecost;

f. 103r, Job and his comforters;

f. 142r, the Virgin in prayer; and

f. 147r, the Trinity enthroned.

The ten small miniatures are Saint Luke (f. 14v), Saint Matthew (f. 15v), Saint Mark (f. 17r), the Pietà (f. 18r), the Virgin and Child (f. 21v), and Saints Michael (f. 150r), John the Baptist (f. 150v), James (f. 151r), Christopher (f. 151v) and Sebastian (f. 152r).

This is a quintessential example of a Book of Hours illuminated in Paris in the period evoked by C. de Hamel, The Medieval World at Our Fingertips, 2018, pp. 188-99, made and sold in the little shops in the Rue Neuve Notre-Dame in front of the cathedral of Paris and on the Pont Notre-Dame.  Printed Books of Hours were also for sale, and sometimes the same artists were involved in both processes of book production.  Some attempt at identification of individual illuminators has been made, notably by Isabelle Delaunay (Delaunay 2000) and various names are used, including the so-called Masters of the Paris Entries, of Étienne Poncher, and of Jeanne Hervez.  The artist of the present Book of Hours has features of all three, but is probably by none of them, and yet his hand is distinctive and will one day be recognised and named.  Massive and rather bulky figures step solemnly through their sacred roles, with pinkish faces and garments heightened by massed vertical lines of liquid gold.  An especially striking miniature here is the half-length figure of the Virgin Mary adored by two angels watching over a curtain (folio 142r).  This derives ultimately from an east European icon attributed to the hand of Saint Luke, of which a copy was acquired by the papal court of Avignon in the mid-fourteenth century.  It was adapted in Tours by Jean Fouquet and Jean Bourdichon, who popularized half-length portraits, and here by 1500 it has entered the repertoire of Paris (cf. Marrow 1994, pp. 78-89).


Avril, François, and Nicole Reynaud, Les manuscrits à peintures en France 1440-1520, 1993.

De Hamel, Christopher, The Medieval World at Our Fingertips, 2018.

Delaunay, Isabelle, Echanges artistiques entre livre d’heures et imprimés produits à Paris (vers 1480-1500), 2000.

Marrow, James H. The Hours of Simon de Varie, 1994.

Perdrizet, Paul. Le calendrier parisien à la fin du moyen âge, 1933.

BOH 149

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Reference Number: 149
EUR 76200 GBP 67700 USD 95000