Hours of Joanna I of Castile and Philip the Fair

Add Ms. 18852 - British Library (London, United Kingdom)

Alternate Titles:

Hours of Joanna I of Castile, Hours of Joanna the Mad

Facsimile edition
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Alternate Titles

Hours of Joanna I of Castile
Hours of Joanna the Mad

Extent / Format

850 pages / 11.0 x 8.0 cm


Various texts on faith including those on the Ten Commandments, the Seven Mortal Sins, the Articles of the Faith, the Five Senses, the Seven Acts of Mercy, the Theological Virtues, the Cardinal Virtues, the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the Sacramentsalong with calenders displaying labors of the month and zodiac symbols


Joanna I of Castile

Artist / School

Rogier van der Weyden and Simon Marmion


844 miniatures illuminated with gold; 83 full-page miniatures; 767 bizarre figures, as well as 767 beautiful flowers, birds and insects illustrations

Former owners

Joanna I of Castile and Philip the Fair


Gothic with humanistic features

Short description

The Hours of Joanna I of Castile and Philip the Fair is an outstanding treasure of late-15th century Flemish illumination: originating from a royal commission, the manuscript is decorated with references to its owner all around – escutcheons, devises, and even portraits. The exuberant illumination consisting of 800+ miniatures was fashioned by
no less a figure than the famous Master of the David Scenes from the Breviarium Grimani!

Facsimile editions available


Hours of Joanna I of Castile and Philip the Fair

Joanna I of Castile (1479-1555), also known as Joanna the Mad, lived a turbulent and fateful life. As the daughter of the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, she inherited the crowns of Aragon and Castile and according to legend found her great love in Philip the Fair, the only son of Emperor Maximilian I. The two were married in the year 1496. Nevertheless, after Philip’s sudden death, Joanna’s rule was plagued by political intrigue and psychological problems and she spent the last years of her life imprisoned in Tordesillas with the epithet the Mad.

Numerous Personal References to the Queen

The Hours of Joanna I of Castile is an impressive testimonial to her faith. The precious manuscript was made in a size typical for a private devotional book of this kind, only measuring 11 x 8 cm. It probably originated in Bruges ca. 1486-1506. That the book of hours was personally tailored to Joanna and was thus probably commissioned by herself or received as a gift is indicated by a few references. Thus, one finds inter alia two wonderful pages with portraits of the Queen in the manuscript. For example, one of these depictions shows her immersed in prayer before the open book, behind her are John the Baptist and a guardian angel. This portrait is surrounded by escutcheons and mottos and presents Joanna’s initials interconnected with those of her husband Philip the Fair.

The Mysterious Master

Yet, these portraits are only two of 83 full-page miniatures altogether among the manuscript’s 800+ visual depictions. These are gorgeously prepared, extremely high quality, and show lively figures amidst a Flemish-style landscape and surroundings. Not only do the primary miniatures deserve a closer look, but also and especially the frames with their richly diverse designs because every detail is loaded with tremendous importance. The outstanding artist who created this splendor is the so-called Master of the David Scenes of the Breviarium Grimani, a mysterious miniaturist who has been named among the greatest artists of the time in research, like e.g. Hans Memling or Simon Bening.

Something Unusual in the Text

Nonetheless, not only is the artistic décor of the small royal devotional book special, but idiosyncrasies also appear in the text, inter alia a few less-common religious and liturgical texts. Following the calendar with typical depictions of the course of the farming year and zodiac signs is the so-called Speculum conscientie with the text of the Ten Commandments, the Seven Deadly Sins, the Cardinal Virtues, and other parts of the catechism.

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