Les Enluminures

3. Hours of the Virgin
Infancy cycle

Annunciation and Visitation
Master of Beatrijs van Assendelft’s “Vita Christia’

The eight Hours of the Virgin in most Books of Hours are illustrated by the awe-inspiring events in the Virgin’s life surrounding the Infancy of Christ. The pictures functioned as picture gallery, meditation aid, and bookmarks (most Books of Hours were originally neither foliated nor paginated). The first Hour, Matins, is traditionally marked by an Annunciation, which faces a picture of the Visitation (for Lauds). The theme of Christ’s Incarnation is echoed through Matin’s invitatory, hymn, antiphons, Psalms, and lessons.

This manuscript for a female patron (perhaps Beatrijs van Assendelft herself) emerges as one of the landmarks of Dutch golden age painting. The artist is named after a Vita Christi in Cambridge (Fitzwilliam Museum, MS 25), which was made in c. 1480 for Beatrijs van Assendelft. His skillful miniatures are often accompanied by profuse border illumination, as occurs here.