Berlin Hours of Mary of Burgundy

78 B 12 - Kupferstichkabinett Staatliche Museen (Berlin, Germany)

Alternate Titles:

Berliner Stundenbuch der Maria von Burgund und Kaiser Maximilians

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Berliner Stundenbuch der Maria von Burgund und Kaiser Maximilians

Type
Extent / Format

724 pages / 10.3 x 7.0 cm

Origin
Date
Between 1477 and 1480
Style
Genre
Language
Patron

Emperor Maximilian I (1459-1519) for his bride Mary of Burgundy (1457-1482), daughter of Charles the Bold (1433-1477)

Artist / School

Master of Mary of Burgundy

Illustrations

27 full-page illustrations, 47 smaller miniatures and 16 pages with richly decorated borders

Former owners

Maria von Burgund (1457-1482), Tochter von Herzog Karl dem Kühnen (1433-1477)

Short description

The Berlin Hours of Mary of Burgundy originated between 1477 and 1480 in the Ghent region, commissioned by Emperor Maximilian I (1459-1519) as a gift to his wife Mary of Burgundy (1457-1482). The magnificent manuscript contains prayers and religious texts for private devotion, which are enriched by a total of 27 full-page and 47 smaller miniatures with biblical scenes. They are joined by 16 pages with particularly rich and plastic bordure decoration consisting of flowers, buds, acanthus, and butterflies. There has already been much speculation in research about the artist of this outstanding Flemish illumination. It presumably came from the Master of Mary of Burgundy, who worked at the end of the 15th century and is stylistically similar to the works of the Old Dutch painter Hugo van der Goes.

Facsimile editions available

Description

Berlin Hours of Mary of Burgundy

The Berlin Hours of Mary of Burgundy, with its luminous miniatures, represents a highpoint of Flemish illumination. The manuscript originated in the region of Ghent between 1477 and 1480 at the behest of Emperor Maximilian I (1459-1519) as a gift to his wife Mary of Burgundy (1457-1482), the only child of Duke Charles the Bold (1433-1477) and as such his sole heiress. On a total of 724 pages, the manuscript contains both prayers as well as religious texts for private devotion, which are interspersed with 27 full-page and 47 smaller miniatures. Moreover, it contains 16 pages of exceptionally rich bordure decoration with flowers and butterflies.

The Secret of the Artist

Who it was that actually furnished the book with such color-intensive painting has never been resolved, but there is a lot of speculation. Initially, researchers ascribed the miniatures the the hand of Alexander Bening, who learned the craft of the miniaturist in the workshop of his father Simon Bening. For a long time now, the Master of Mary of Burgundy, or one of his successors is considered to be the outfitter of the book of hours. This name of convenience indicates a Franco-Flemish illuminator who worked in the late 15th century and is stylistically similar to the Old Dutch painter Hugo van Goes. Whosoever was the source of this precious, high-quality visual adornment, the Berlin Hours of Mary of Burgundy is a masterpiece.

Fantastical Framing

The artist devoted strikingly considerable attention to the frames of his miniatures. In particular, space is devoted large-scale flowers, still-closed buds, opulent acanthus, but also small butterflies and fruits. The fine motifs are arranged symmetrically in some compositions, like a decorative pattern, and freely in others, whereby the eye of the beholder is continuously fascinated by something new. Only rarely are frames and bordures of such high artistic quality that they are in no way inferior to the actual miniatures.

Dramatic and Harmonious Miniatures

It is breathtaking how the painter managed to produce completely different atmospheres in the biblical scenes. The scenes of torture and martyrdom are dramatic, while the sweeping figures and contorted faces attest to great suffering and terrifying violence. When one compares such temperamental miniatures with an introverted Woman of the Apocalypse or a loving Madonna with Child, the contrast could not be greater. It was exactly this interplay and clash of emotions that constitutes the quality of the meticulous and shimmering miniatures.

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