A Book of Hours is a Christian devotional book popular in the Middle Ages–from the fifth to fifteenth centuries–which contained prayers, psalms, religious and canonical texts. These books were illuminated with decoration and often painstaking illustrations that could take months, and even years to complete.
The most famous Book of Hours is the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, which was produced by Dutch brothers Herman, Paul Johan Limbourg for the Duke Jean de Berry between 1412- 1416.
John the Duke of Berry (1340–1416), aka John the Magnificent, was the son of King Charles V of France. He is now best remembered as a patron of the arts, employing the Limbourg brothers to illustrate a Book of Hours in 1405-1409. Delighted with their work, he again employed the brothers to produce an even greater book of hours–Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry.
This book consists of 206 pages of fine quality parchment, 30 cm in height by 21.5 cm in width, with 66 large illustrations and 65 small.
It was passed down to different families after the Duke’s death (he died in debt, no doubt from his lavish expenditure on commissioning works of art), and was only recognised as work of great importance in the 1800s.
Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry is described as “the king of illuminated manuscripts” (“le roi des manuscrits enluminés”). In particular the illustrations of events associated with each month of the year, which have hailed as the finest depictions of medieval life ever produced.
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