Book of Hours of Mary Stuart

Herzogliches Haus Württemberg

Alternate Titles:

Das Stundenbuch der Maria Stuart, Livre d'Heures de Marie Stuart

Facsimile edition
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Alternate Titles

Das Stundenbuch der Maria Stuart
Livre d'Heures de Marie Stuart

Extent / Format


Short description

A truly fascinating jewel of 16th century illumination: the so-called Book of Hours of Mary Stuart is considered to be the smallest book of hours in the entire history of illumination. Nonetheless, the Scottish Queen’s small devotional book impresses not only because of this superlative, but is also noteworthy for its content and history: a truly royal provenance and an outstanding, precious, and masterfully artistic design!

Facsimile editions available


Book of Hours of Mary Stuart

Although the book of hours certainly bears the name of Mary Stuart, actually King Francois I (1497-1547) is considered to be the patron of the exceptional manuscript. It came into the possession of Princess Claude, his wife **Claude de France as a royal present from Francois. The Scottish Queen Mary Stuart (1542-1587), whose tragic and exciting life fascinates to this day, eventually married the grandson of Claude de France, the French King Francois II, and it was in this way that the treasure of illumination came into her possession.

A Very Special Prayer Book

Books of hours – small, precious books for private devotion – were always small and easy to handle so that their owners could simply carry them on their person as a constant companion. This characteristic of personal prayer books was taken to the extreme here. The Book of Hours of Mary Stuart is a truly unique item: measuring only 4.8 x 3.2 cm, it is the smallest book of hours in art history!

The Shimmer of Gold

In spite of this tiny format the manuscript from the late period of illumination impresses with its outstanding design. An image overload is presented with 300 pages of miniatures and text, bordures and ornamentation, initials and gold everywhere. 14 miniature pages adorn the religious texts with appropriate pictures, scenes of the Life of Christ from birth to Passion. Nevertheless, these miniatures are not merely simple illustrations, but rather true masterpieces in the smallest of formats. Exquisitely prepared, the figurative scenes are presented in highly-detailed interior spaces or atmospheric landscapes, thus yielding a precious image of the great art of illumination during the Renaissance north of the Alps

A French Masterpiece

This treasure originated from the beginning of the 16th century – ca. 1510-15 – in French Tours. The manuscript is thereby an impressive testimony to the Rouen school. After being in the hands of kings and queens for centuries, it came to Germany in 1837 via Marie d’Orleans, the daughter of the French King Louis-Philippe I, on the occasion of her marriage to Duke Alexander von Württemberg, where it is housed to this day in the collection of the House of Württemberg.

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