Book of Hours of Besançon

Ms. 0148 - Bibliothèque municipale (Besançon, France)

Alternate Titles:

Libro de Horas de Besançon, Stundenbuch aus Besançon

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Libro de Horas de Besançon
Stundenbuch aus Besançon

Type
Extent / Format

386 pages / 16.2 x 11.8 cm

Origin
Date
Around 1480-1485
Style
Genre
Language
Artist / School

Jean Colombe

Illustrations

Numerous full-page and half-page miniatures

Short description

The so-called Book of Hours of Besançon is an exceptional attestation of the art of 15th century French illumination. The 386 pages of the personal prayer book were adorned throughout with full-page miniatures, figurative scenes in the frames, or simply gorgeous initials. Jean Colombe is believed to be the master of this magnificence, the famous French painter who was employed, inter alia, by high-ranking patrons like Louis de Laval. His name is additionally associated with the Très Riches Heures by the Limburg Brothers for the Duc de Berry. The Book of Hours of Besançon glimmers with exceptional compositions and a special treatment of light and landscape in the grandiose miniatures!

Facsimile editions available

Description

Book of Hours of Besançon

The so-called Book of Hours of Besançon is an exceptional attestation of the art of 15th century French illumination. The 386 pages of the personal prayer book were adorned throughout with full-page miniatures, figurative scenes in the frames, or simply gorgeous initials. Jean Colombe is believed to be the master of this magnificence, the famous French painter who was employed, inter alia, by high-ranking patrons like Louis de Laval. His name is additionally associated with the Très Riches Heures by the Limburg Brothers for the Duc de Berry. The Book of Hours of Besançon glimmers with exceptional compositions and a special treatment of light and landscape in the grandiose miniatures!

An Exceptional Manuscript

Manuscript 0148 of the Bibliothèque Municipale de Besançon is known as the so-called Book of Hours of Besançon. It probably originated ca. 1480-1485 in France. The precious devotional book, with its exuberant and consistently high-quality adornment, was surely a commission of a high-ranking and wealthy personality. All of the altogether 386 pages measuring 16.2 x 11.8 cm are visually adorned, either in the form of full-page miniatures, smaller depictions, or wonderfully-colorful initials.

The Impressive Miniatures

At the beginning, the manuscript presents a calendar with typical depictions of agrarian activities, but also of saints. The paintings already indicate, that a true master must have been at work here. Thus the following illustrated borders – narrow depictions alongside the text in portrait – show a cycle with scenes from the Old Testament, from the creation story to the Book of Tobit. The prophecies from the Book of Isaiah were ultimately depicted in full-page, large-format miniatures. In this way, the most important events of the New Testament are expressed in magnificent pictures!

A Master of his Profession

All this magnificence in the Book of Hours of Besançon points to an exceptional miniaturist. This is presumably a work by Jean Colombe. This famous French illuminator was employed by Louis de Laval and the Duke of Savoy, inter alia. For the latter, Jean Colombe completed, inter alia, the Très Riches Heures by the Limburg brothers for the Duc de Berry. The exceptional treatment of light and landscape, as they appear in the miniatures of the manuscript in Besançon, are a trademark of Jean Colombe’s art. Furthermore, complicated room constructions and well-thought-out composition distinguish the manuscript in it elegant overall impression.

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