Great Hours of Anne of Brittany

Lat. 9474 - Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris, France)

Alternate Titles:

Las Grandes Horas de Ana de Bretaña, Grandes Heures der Anna von der Bretagne, Gran Libro d’Ore d’Anna di Bretagna, Grandes Heures d’Anne de Bretagne, Grandes Horas de Ana da Bretanha

Facsimile edition
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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Las Grandes Horas de Ana de Bretaña
Grandes Heures der Anna von der Bretagne
Gran Libro d’Ore d’Anna di Bretagna
Grandes Heures d’Anne de Bretagne
Grandes Horas de Ana da Bretanha

Type
Extent / Format

476 pages / 30.5 x 20.0 cm

Origin
Date
1503-1508
Style
Genre
Language
Patron

Anne of Brittany (1477 - 1514)

Artist / School

Miniaturist: Jean Bourdichon

Illustrations

49 full-page miniatures and 337 marginal illuminations with plants, insects and small mammals

Former owners

Louis XIV
Napoleon III

Short description

The Grand Hours of Anne of Brittany was made by Jean Bourdichon between 1503 and 1508. It is the private prayer book of the Duchess and is adorned with nearly 50 full-page miniatures. The pictures are reminiscent of great panel paintings in their quality. The book of hours is considered to be one of art history’s most important illuminated manuscripts.

Facsimile editions available

Description

Great Hours of Anne of Brittany

In the time period from 1503 to 1508, Jean Bourdichon, probably France’s most famous book artists, created one of the most superb books of hours ever. The Grand Hours of Anne of Brittany was made for the Queen of France for her private prayer and devotion and is garnished with 49 full-page miniatures, as well as over 300 ornamental bordures. This work numbers among the most beautiful illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages. The book treasure is found today in the French National Library in Paris.

Anne of Brittany and Jean Bourdichon

The French Queen Anne of Brittany was known as a pious person who loved art and luxury. She acted as patron of several artists and writers, among whom the illuminator Jean Bourdichon was closest to her. Bourdichon was one of the most famous artists of the Early French Renaissance and directed the Tours school. He not only made Anne’s exquisite book of hours, but also a famous primer for her daughter Claude. His illuminated manuscripts are characterized by an unmistakable style and the greatest technical refinement. His miniatures are as impressive as the great panel paintings of the Middle Ages.

An Impressive Variety of Depictions

The book of hours contains 49 full-page, luminously-colored paintings against a black-colored background, which are contained in golden frames. The images are breathtakingly realistic and convey a convincing sense of spatial depth. Bourdichon laid out especially luminous accents with his purposeful brushstrokes of gold. Some of the fantastic scenes are reminiscent of the works of great painters like Leonardo Da Vinci. Each miniature can be regarded as a small, independent work of art. Unique marginal depictions of plants and insects lend the work an unusual flavor. The frames of the codex manifest a complete treatise about botany, which includes over 330 plants with their scientific names. Therefore what we have here is simultaneously a prayer book and a natural encyclopedia. The lively frames further emphasize the beauty of every single miniature.

One of France’s Greatest Book Treasures

The Grand Hours of Anne of Brittany cast its spell on other French princes after the death of the Duchess in the year 1514. Louis XIV had it included in the cabinet of curiosities in the palace of Versailles. Its beauty later conquered Napoleon III, who had it exhibited from 1852 to 1872 in the Museum of the Art Treasure of the Kings and Nobility in the Louvre. Today it is one of the most valuable treasures of the French National Library in Paris. The codex played an important role in the history of book art and is judged by art historians as one of the most exceptional and valuable books of hours of all time.

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