Prayer Book of Anne de Bretagne

MS M.50 - Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)

Alternate Titles:

Gebetbuch der Anne de Bretagne, Prayerbook of Anne de Bretagne

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Gebetbuch der Anne de Bretagne
Prayerbook of Anne de Bretagne

Type
Extent / Format

62 pages / 12.5 x 8.0 cm

Origin
Date
1492-1495
Style
Genre
Language
Patron

Anne of Brittany (1477 - 1514)

Artist / School

Jean Poyet

Illustrations

34 full-page miniatures, all by a masterly hand and framed with large ornamental borders containing the letters A, N and E. Numerous coloured initials decorated with flowers, partly on gilded ground or interlaced with golden rinceaux on red or blue ground

Short description

The Prayer Book of Anne of Brittany, dedicated to the consort of two French Kings in a row and famous art patron and collector, is an extremely impressive example of a private manuscript. This small book was both for Anne’s personal use and also for the religious education of her son, the Dauphin of France. Next to the extremely rich ornamentation of the pictures is the creative and well thought out Gestalt of the single pages of this Prayer Book.

Facsimile editions available

Description

The Prayer Book of Anna of Brittany

The Prayer Book of Anne of Brittany, dedicated to the consort of two French Kings in a row and famous art patron and collector, is an extremely impressive example of a private manuscript. This small book was both for Anne’s personal use and also for the religious education of her son, the Dauphin of France. Next to the extremely rich ornamentation of the pictures is the creative and well thought out Gestalt of the single pages of this Prayer Book.

Grandiose Monument of Motherly Love

Integrated in a series of well-established depictions straight out of holy hagiography and biblical scenes, 34 miniatures shine brightly throughout the Prayer Book, with a special focus on the love-filled relationship between Anne and her son, the future King of France, King Karl VIII, Charles-Orland. Conspicuously, this played out in the picture of the lamentation of Christ with an inconsolable Mary in the center of the composition, or the selection of Margaret praying to God for the safe birth of her next child. More than half of the 62 pages of the book show fine miniatures with precious floral initials gilded throughout. Anne of Brittany had also included a memorial to herself within the book; a miniature page shows her kneeling at a confession with a clergyman. The gilded borders surround velvet miniature scenes with short, descriptive text, which is colorfully composed in a grid as well. In these innumerable small boxes are the three letters of her name inscribed: A, N, and E. Additionally the creative involvement of the theme of her personal emblem is found again and again in the borders of the pages. This exceptional concept derives from one of the most renowned Book painters of the time.

A Manuscript with high artistic Value

The much appreciated miniaturist** Jean Poyet**, who was employed by three different French Kings, was entrusted with the task of making this personal Prayer Book by Anne of Brittany. In Tours, somewhere between the years 1492 and 1495, he finished this treasure among manuscripts of the 15th century. With the bright and airy landscape, the extraordinary vitality of the figures with finely painted faces and their lightly colored clothing, one can clearly see the beginnings of the Renaissance in France in this masterfully architected work. Jean Poyet wanted to implement into his miniatures the grandiose developments of panel painting in small areas. New innovations in painting, like the unordinary depiction of the Holy Trinity – instead of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, one can see three young men—testifies to the high artistic claim to value that this work of miniatures presents.

Informative Catechism for the French Dauphin

Anne of Britany used her Prayer Book mainly to teach her son, Charles-Orland, the basics of his intellectual education. The future King should be made confident in his knowledge of the most important prayers and biblical stories. However, the young prince was only three years old when he died in 1495. The gorgeous last few pages of the small book show him as an older man at prayer; an age he never attained.
The Prayer Book went from the ownership of Anne to her youngest daughter with Louis XII. She would also have a Prayer Book fashioned for her, which became known as the “Flower Prayer Book for Renee de France”. Up until the beginning of the 20th Century, Anne of Brittany’s Prayer Book remained in France. Then in 1905 it ended up in the USA from the purchase by J.P. Morgan, where it is still to this day retained.
As a testimony to the personal beliefs of the two-time Queen of France, this Prayer Book from Anne of Brittany has a high historical standing. The motherly love she gave to her son imbues this manuscript with a precious series of miniatures that are best seen to be believed.

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