Beatty Rosarium

Beatty Rosarium – Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – MS Western 99 – Chester Beatty Library (Dublin, Ireland)

Flanders β€” Ca. 1530

With one of only three completely preserved picture cycles from the hand of the famous Simon Bening: an innovative and individually illuminated prayerbook representing one of the last true masterpieces of illumination

  1. One of the last masterworks in the 1000-year-old tradition of illumination

  2. Simon Bening (ca. 1483–1561), the last and arguably greatest master of European illumination, created it himself

  3. The content is arranged in such a way that it constitutes an innovative and unique prayer book

Beatty Rosarium

Facsimile Copy Available!
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(under 1,000€)
  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Beatty Rosarium

At the end of its 1000-year tradition, illumination still experienced a great flowering after the invention of printing. The last and probably greatest master of European illumination was Simon Bening (ca. 1483-1561), who created here a Marian prayer book, which contains one of only three completely preserved picture cycles from his hand. The prayer text and the 33 miniatures are innovative and uniquely related to each other. For example, the prayer text for the story of the 12-year-old Jesus in the temple asks that God's people recognize what needs to be done and find strength to do it. In the accompanying miniature, Bening paints the facial expressions of the individual scholars in the temple, from positively amazed to annoyed, so individually that the viewer can ask himself which of the many reactions is his own – and what is to be done for him.

Beatty Rosarium

The Rosary in the Dublin Chester Beatty Library is a small prayer book which is notable for several reasons, not least for the high artistic quality of its 33 full page miniatures attributed to the last and greatest Flemish book painter, Simon Bening (1483–1561). The text, however, also merits great attention for a compilation of diverse prayers to God and the Saints as well as to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Although both miniatures and text go back to earlier sources, the individual elements of the Beatty Rosarium are arranged in such a way that our work constitutes an innovative and unique prayer book. The reader is surprised by the great number of miniatures illustrating the text and supporting its contents in an ideal manner. This draws the attention both to the devotional contents of the prayer and the illustration at the same time. The extraordinary beauty of the miniatures at one stage resulted in their having been removed from their binding and sold separately. By a remarkable piece of good fortune, however, they were returned, were bound again with the text pages and have been preserved as a whole book ever since.

Simon Bening – Last Master of Flemish Illumination

The Beatty Rosary was probably made ca. 1530 and constitutes one of the last masterworks in the 1000-year-old tradition of illumination. It is very rare that a prayer book holding a cycle of miniatures was executed exclusively by a single hand, in our case, Simon Bening’s. This illuminator continuously followed the work of his colleagues. His creations are based on a wealth of earlier compositions and composition details that he assembled during his active life and used extensively in countless variations. This presents him not as eclectic, but rather as a genuine creative artist.

A "Rose Garden" of Devotional Prayers

In the Middle Ages, the term of Rosarium, which in classical Latin signifies "rose garden", acquired the meaning of a text collection, which we would today call an anthology. In the 14th century, however, the word was widely used as a title for prayer books on the Blessed Virgin Mary, undoubtedly because "the rose was a very popular symbol of the Virgin". In the Christian Middle Ages, people liked to look at a picture while reading a text, and to meditate on it. The Beatty Rosary seems to have been very appropriate in this respect, as the full page miniatures facing the text were particularly suited to this devotional practice. With the exception of the first 16 text pages, each page of text is faced by a miniature, enabling the person in prayer to sink in meditation before the picture while reading the text. The Rosary was compiled by Simon Bening, who chose passages from well-known religious texts and matched them in an unusual manner with miniatures which fascinate in the luminosity of their colors, fine details, representation of space, landscape painting, and emotional expression.

A Prayer Book for a Spanish King

Although there are only indirect indications as to the identity of the first owner of the manuscript, some stylistic elements of script and the addition of a guard-sheet with Spanish text suggests a Spanish patron. With its combination of Flemish miniatures and Spanish script, the Rosarywidens our current knowledge on artistic links between Spain and Flanders in the 16th century. Moreover, two flyleaves containing inscriptions refer to its former owners and inform us on the provenance of the work, one of them making us assume that the book once belonged to King Philip II of Spain.


Alternative Titles
Das Rosarium
Size / Format
106 pages / 12.4 Γ— 8.4 cm
Ca. 1530
33 full-page miniatures with gold ornaments
Probably Philip II, King of Spain
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Beatty Rosarium – Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – MS Western 99 – Chester Beatty Library (Dublin, Ireland)
Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Graz, 1985
Limited Edition: 1000 copies
Detail Picture

Beatty Rosarium

Disputation with the Doctors

In a typical medieval depiction of this scene from the Gospel of Luke, Christ is shown seated on a raised dais and gesturing as though he is lecturing and surrounded by elders who frown and exchange disapproving glances while consulting books. They serve as fine subjects for the Flemish master Simon Bening because of their lavish clothing, which is bright, multi-layered, and includes fur-lined hats and collars. Although twelve in the story, Christ looks much younger here.

Beatty Rosarium – Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – MS Western 99 – Chester Beatty Library (Dublin, Ireland)
Single Page

Beatty Rosarium

The Pentecost

This is one of only three complete image cycles to come exclusively from the hand of Simon Bening. Each miniature resembles a small, independent panel painting but they are consistent stylistically, sharing luminous colors, fine details and spatiality, and emotional expressions.

This depiction of the Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the followers of Jesus Christ in the form of a dove, occurs in a contemporary church. Gold leaf radiates from the dove and reigns down upon the crowd of haloed faces, who look up in wonder, except for the Virgin Mary, who is squarely in the center of the image. Hands held up in prayer, face still exhibiting the sorrow of her loss, her gaze is focused on a book in front of her, possibly the manuscript at hand.

Beatty Rosarium – Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – MS Western 99 – Chester Beatty Library (Dublin, Ireland)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Das Rosarium

Publisher: Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Graz, 1985
Limited Edition: 1000 copies
Binding: Leather with gold-stamping. Facsimile and commentary volume in book case.
Commentary: 1 volume (267 pages) by J. Testa
Language: German

267 pages with numerous illustrations (translated into German).

The scholarly commentary, written by Judith Testa and edited by James Marrow, examines the manuscript from various angles and describes its environment. There are articles on the type of rosary, the book painter Simon Bening and his Ε“uvre, the significance of the Beatty Rosary in the history of art as well as a codicological analysis. The commentary volume is complete with a transcription and translation of the Latin text (by Philipp Harnoncourt and Friederike Kiedl) and an extensive description of all 33 miniatures.
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) All folios are cut according to the original. This edition appears as a coedition with Davaco Publishers, Doornspijk, Holland and Ediciones de arte y bibliofilia, Madrid, Spain. 1000 copies are reserved for the Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt. Limited edition: 2.350 numbered copies worldwide.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €
(under 1,000€)
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