Les Enluminures

3. Hours of the Virgin
Infancy cycle

Master of the Morgan Infancy Cycle

The traditional subject of the miniature for Prime is the Nativity. As was typical with Dutch art, even at this early date, the scene is filled with narrative details of everyday life. A smiling Christ Child leans eagerly toward the cloth-covered hands of Mary's attendant. The shed is minutely described, down to the hole in the roof. Joseph, drying a diaper in the foreground, appears again in the initial on the facing leaf in his occupation as carpenter.

This Book of Hours--with its fifty-three full-page and seven half-page miniatures, ten historiated initials, and twenty-four Calendar vignettes--is one of the most richly illustrated Dutch manuscripts predating the Hours of Catherine of Cleves (c. 1440). The artist is named after his inventive series of miniatures for the Hours of the Virgin in this manuscript, filled with anecdotal elements. In addition to inspired iconography, the artist worked in more than one technique, sometimes within a single miniature: thick and generous gold, heavy impasto, thin washes, and pen drawing were handled equally well in this manuscript, which is regarded as his finest work.