Duchess Dorothea's Prayer Book

Alternate Titles:

Modlitewnik Księżnej Doroty, Jobst Gutknecht, Feuerzeug Christlicher Andacht, Gebetbuch der Herzögin Dorothea von Preussen

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Modlitewnik Księżnej Doroty
Jobst Gutknecht, Feuerzeug Christlicher Andacht
Gebetbuch der Herzögin Dorothea von Preussen

Type
Extent / Format

148 pages / 17.5 x 12.0 cm

Origin
Date
1536
Style
Genre
Language
Patron

Duke Albert of Prussia, Grand Master of the Teutonic Order

Artist / School

Georg Glockendon (1490 - 1533/34)

Former owners

Duchess Dorothea of Prussia

Short description

The princely Prussian couple Dorothea and Albrecht were completely devoted to Protestant beliefs and shaped their rule in accordance with the teachings of the Protestant faith. Duke Albrecht commissioned numerous prayer and devotional books for the religious education of his young wife Dorothea, all of them of high worth and made with exceptional diligence. The prayer book, which was made in 1536 in the Nuremberg workshop of the artist Nikolaus Glockendon, represents the Duchess’s most splendid work. The printed book was elaborately decorated by hand and is furnished with a precious binding. It is the most beautiful and personal book from the princely library to survive to the present.

Facsimile editions available

Description

Duchess Dorothea's Prayer Book

As a princely couple, Dorothea and Albrecht von Preußen were famous for their ardent Protestant faith. A large number of devotional books and texts originated in Albrecht’s name, the most powerful proponent of the Reformation in the Prussian state. The small prayer book belonging to Duchess Dorothea is one of the few pieces from that princely library to have survived to the present. It possesses a special value and status among all of the noble pair’s splendid works. The text of the incredibly richly decorated prayer book is printed, having said that, all of the miniatures and marginal decorations were handmade. Girded with a preciously adorned, valuable binding, the small book is a unique witness to the great cultural wealth of the bygone state of Prussia.

Prussian Protestantism

Dorothea of Prussia way a Danish princess and the first Duchess of Prussia. When she was married to Margrave Albrecht von Ansbach-Brandenburg, Duke of Prussia on July 1st, 1526, the ideas of the Reformation were already widespread in her new abode. Albrecht was an enthusiastic supporter of Martin Luther, was in good standing with the Reformer from Wittenberg, and undertook to reign over Prussia as a humble and responsible protestant sovereign. His wife Dorothea went to great lengths to emulate the Duke in his faith and found him to be a patient teacher. Numerous sources tell of how the prince commissioned theological texts, bibles, and devotional books for his wife in order to give her an understanding of the teachings of the protestant faith.

The Genesis of a Masterpiece

A few written sources contain information about the genesis of Duchess Dorothea's Prayer Book. A letter by Albrecht concerning the prayer book was addressed to the Nuremberg artists Arnold Wenck and Nikolaus Glockendon. The letter relates the personal wishes of the Duke, according to which his wife’s gift was to be manufactured. It was intended to correspond to the style of the great handwritten and hand-illuminated books of hours by Flemish and Dutch illuminators. His prayer texts were printed, but all of the decoration and illumination of the book was finished with the use of high-quality colors and precious gold leaf applied by hand. Elaborate floral patterns and depictions of animals in an inconceivable variety adorn the margins of the pages. The illumination is reminiscent of the famous fables of the ancient Greek poet Aesop. The exceptional binding of the prayer book consists of black velvet studded with precious gemstones as well as silver fittings and claps. All of these precious and unbelievably expensive elements of décor speak to the very personal character of the masterful prayer book.

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