Savoy Hours

Beinecke MS 390 - Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (New Haven, USA)

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Codiology

Type
Extent / Format

52 pages / 20.1 x 14.7 cm

Origin
Date
1334-1348 and 1370-1378
Style
Genre
Language
Patron

Blanche of Burgundy, Countess of Savoy

Artist / School

The successors of Jean Pucelle's workshop, additional decoration by the Master of the Bible of Jean de Sy

Illustrations

50 miniatures, 106 decorated initials

Former owners

King Charles V
Jean, duc de Berry

Script

Gothic script

Short description

As an enchanting book of hours with particularly rich furnishings, the Savoy Hours had a style-forming effect in the history of book illumination and significantly advanced the development of the book genre as a template. It assembles 50 miniatures framed by quatrefoils and 106 historiated initials on its 52 pages, which enchant the beholder with slender figures in front of picturesque backgrounds. The manuscript in two sections was commissioned by Blanka of Burgundy (1295-1326) in the 1330’s. The first part was probably made between 1334 and 1348 by the successor of the workshop of the famous Parisian book painter Jean Pucelle (ca. 1300-ca. 1334), and the second part was added between 1370 and 1378 by the Master of the Bible of Jean de Sy.

Facsimile editions available

Description

Savoy Hours

Although only a small part of the once very comprehensive Savoy Hours is extant after almost 600 years, it fascinates the beholder with its princely illumination. The precious manuscript originated in two parts: the first part was probably made between 1334 and 1348 by the successor of the workshop of the famous Parisian book painter Jean Pucelle (ca. 1300-ca. 1334), and the second part was added between 1370 and 1378 by the **Master of the Bible of Jean de Sy. Its 50 surviving miniatures and 106 historiated initials allows us to surmise how complex and inventive the book of hours for private devotion, which was composed in Latin and French, once was.

Marvelous Scenes in Tasteful Frames

It can be assumed that the Savoy Hours were furnished with 187 miniatures and 24 calendar vignettes of a very large format. An impression of this opulence is already apparent in the remaining 52 pages with picturesque depictions of fine figures in front of creative backgrounds. A tricolor quatrefoil surrounds the miniature in each case so that they become small paintings, which additionally explain the text for the reader. These masterpieces correspond to original colored pen drawings of drolleries and small birds, which artfully play around the text.

Early Portrait Painting

In the 1330’s, Blanka of Burgundy (1295-1326), the Countess of Savoy and the granddaughter of King Louis IX of France, commissioned the unique book of hours. She had herself depicted 25 times in the surviving 50 miniatures alone. In one place she appears kneeling gracefully before a saint, and in another she appears on the same level as him. What is astonishing about these portraits is the particularly fine rendering of the feminine features of her face.

Style-Forming Effect for French Gothic Illumination

The diverse Savoy Hours has not only shaped our perception of the French Gothic, but also had a great influence on the development of illumination and the book of hours itself. When Charles VI gifted the manuscript in 1409 to his uncle John, the Duke of Berry (1340-1416), it aroused a passion for precious books in him**. It is supposed that the book of hours had a great influence on the works that he himself later commissioned (Petites-, Très Belles-, and Très Riches Heures inter alia).

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