Barberini Book of Hours for the Use of Rouen

Barb. lat. 487 - Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)

Alternate Titles:

Barberini-Stundenbuch für Rouen

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Alternate Titles

Barberini-Stundenbuch für Rouen

Extent / Format

218 pages / 24.4 x 14.3 cm

Around 1510

17 full-page and 44 smaller miniatures

Short description

The Barberini Book of Hours for the Use of Rouen was created around 1510, probably by the popular Parisian master Jean Pichore. The work was commissioned by the Barberini family, one of the most powerful noble families of the Italian Renaissance. It contains numerous elaborately designed miniatures that stretch across whole pages. The colorfully and variously patterned bordures that artfully frame the pages of the book are especially impressive.

Facsimile editions available


Barberini Book of Hours for the Use of Rouen

The Italian noble family Baraberini was one of the most influential ruling dynasties of the Renaissance. The family is infamous for their propensity to corruption and nepotism, as well as for their colossal building projects. Nevertheless, the members of the Barberini family were also educated book lovers. Numerous illuminated manuscripts were commissioned in their name, a few specimens of which exist still today. Among these valuable manuscripts is the Barberini Book of Hours for the Use of Rouen. The work contains 17 full page miniatures and 44 small pictures. The text is bedecked with numerous decorative initials and a total of 183 wonderful bordures.

Influential Commissioners

The famous master Jean Pichore and his staff were probably responsible for the design of the magnificent codex. Pichore was one of the most prominent French illuminators of the Late Middle Ages. He illustrated, among others, manuscripts for Cardinal Georges d´Amboise. He received the commission for the Book of Hours for the Use of Rouen from the Barberini family. In the 17th century, Maffeo de Barberini was elected Pope Urban VIII, consequently he occupied the highest religious and also political position of power at that time. To give significance to his position, the prince gave birth to vast building projects and did not fear the destruction of ancient monuments. For example, he approved the use of the Roman Colosseum as a quarry. He wanted to leave not only impressive buildings behind for posterity, but also literary monuments. The Book of Hours for the Use of Rouen is undoubtedly numbered among the most beautiful and valuable books of hours of the Renaissance.

Powerful Miniatures and Decorative Elements

The Barberini Book of Hours combines illustrations with events that are portrayed in the text in a unique way. The 17 full page miniatures sometimes stretch across a double pageand resemble medieval mural painting in their expressiveness**. Luminous colors and gold ornamentation turn each individual depiction into its own small work of art. 24 small miniatures describe zodiac signs and various activities that are ordered according to the 12 months of the year. The illuminators dedicated 14 additional small illustrations to various saints. The most elaborate decorative elements, however, form the numerous bordures that frame the book pages. They show an unmeasurable variety of patterns and decorative elements and still astound the beholder today.

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