Black Prayer Book of Galeazzo Maria Sforza

Black Prayer Book of Galeazzo Maria Sforza – Österreichische Staatsdruckerei – Codex Vindobonensis 1856 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)

Bruges (Belgium) — 1466–1476

Black parchment, bright colors and biblical texts in silver and gold for Charles the Bold: arguably the most beautiful of the seven black illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages that survive today

  1. This codex belongs to a small group of exceptional manuscripts from the 15th century: the Black Hours

  2. As a result, the text had to be written in gold and silver ink and the miniatures rendered in bright pastels

  3. Commissioned by the Burgundian Duke Charles the Bold and passing into the possession of Galeazzo Maria Sforza after his death, the Duke of Milan

Black Prayer Book of Galeazzo Maria Sforza

Facsimile Copy Available!
Formerly 7,800  â‚¬
Special Offer until 06/30/2024 (like new) 4,499  â‚¬
  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (4)
Description
Black Prayer Book of Galeazzo Maria Sforza

The famous Codex 1856 of the Austrian National Library, the so-called Black Prayer Book of Galeazzo Maria Sforza, belongs to a small group of exceptional 15th century manuscripts: the black hours. These are named after their parchment pages dyed dark black, on which the luminous paintings and calligraphy are particularly impressive. Only seven of these stunning testimonials to late medieval book art have survived to this day. The wonderful Black Prayer Book from Vienna was commissioned by the last Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold, and later came into the possession of the Duke of Milan, Galeazzo Maria Sforza, by unknown paths. Its black pages are adorned with a veritable splendour of gold, silver and bright colors, which can be seen in the delicately written texts as well as the filigree vine borders, ornate medallions and masterful miniatures.

Black Prayer Book of Galeazzo Maria Sforza

The famous Codex 1856 of the Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek, the so-called Vienna Black Prayer Book, belongs to a small group of exceptional manuscripts from the 15th century: the black hours. These are so-named after their parchment pages dyed dark black, on which the luminous paintings particularly come into their own. Of these grandiose testimonials to illumination, only seven specimens survive today. The wonderful Black Hours from Vienna originated in Bruges at the behest of Charles the Bold, the last Duke of Burgundy. It came by unknown paths into the possession of the Duke of Milan, Galeazzo Maria Sforza. The precious book of hours returned to the northern realms, coming into the possession of the Hapsburgs through the marriage of his daughter with Emperor Maximilian I and is counted today among the greatest treasures of the Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek.

A Fragile Rarity

The fragility of the parchment pages makes the Vienna Black Prayer Book something very special. The pages were dyed dark black with a chemical solution, which has heavily corroded the pages over the centuries, for the purpose of allowing the colors of the illumination to glow against this dark background. Consequently, the book of hours – one of only seven surviving of its kind – is handled with special care with the pages stored between glass plates and in a vacuum. This manuscript visualizes the wonder which the 15th century miniaturists were in a position to bring about with just paint and brush. The paintings of the Black Prayer Book, a glorious cosmos of gold, silver, and bright colors, leaves behind an unforgettable impression incomparable with a manuscript of undyed parchment!

Impressive Pictorial Decoration

Embellishing marginal ornaments, impressively designed miniatures, splendid initials, wonderful calendar pages, and additional medallions in the splendid frames: the pictorial decoration of the Vienna Black Prayer Book impresses with its abundance of high-quality painting. The luminous pictures and text written in gold and silver come impressively into their own against the dark background of the colored pages, which lend the manuscript its name. This reverse contrast to the typical dark text and imagery against a light background accounts for the special allure of this payer book. On its 206 pages, the manuscript assembles 15 full-page miniatures, 24 smaller ones, and 71 medallions in the margins. These illustrate the prayers according to the Roman liturgy with a special focus on Marian content. The miniatures originate from an unknown artist who is referred to in the field of research with the Notname Master of the Antonius from Burgundy.

The 15th Century Burgundian Book Treasure

The Vienna Black Prayer Book is also known as the Hours of Charles the Bold, the last Duke of Burgundy. It was presumably he who commissioned the book of hours, or he received it as a gift. Originating in Bruges in the years 1450–1474, the Black Prayer Book fits into a group of splendid manuscripts of the same type. These black manuscripts were particularly well-loved in the Duchy of Burgundy in the second half of the 15th century. Aside from the manuscript presented here, there is also the Black Hours of New York’s Morgan Library, originating likewise ca. 1475 in Bruges for a member of the Burgundian court around Charles the Bold, or the Hours of Mary of Burgundy, also from the Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek, although the Hours of Charles the Bold is the most splendid and beautiful among them.

The Duke of Milan and the Holy Roman Emperor

An additional significant name is closely associated with the Codex 1856 of the Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek: Galeazzo Maria Sforza (1444–1476). The Duke of Milan was a great lover and patron of the arts. The Black Hours reached him by mysterious paths in the year 1493. One year later in 1494, the marriage of Galeazzo’s daughter Bianca Maria with Emperor Maximilian I took place. Bianca Maria was Maximilian’s second wife after the death of Mary of Burgundy. The Black Prayer Book was given to her as a dowry. The splendid manuscript came into the possession of the Hapsburgs in this way and has been accounted for in their collection since 1795. Today, the Black Prayer Book counts among the highlights of the Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek!

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Black Prayerbook
Das Schwarze Gebetbuch
Schwarzes Gebetbuch
Gebetbuch des Galeazzo Maria Sforza
Horarium Galeazii Mariae Sfortiae V. ducis Mediolanensis
Size / Format
308 pages / 25.2 × 17.8 cm
Origin
Belgium
Date
1466–1476
Language
Script
Gothic Textura
Illustrations
15 full-page and 24 smaller miniatures; 71 border vignettes and some decorated initials
Content
Liturgy of the Hours
Patron
Charles The Bold, Duke of Burgundy (1433–1477)
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Galeazzo Maria Sforza, Duke of Milan (reigned 1455–1476)
Galeazzo's daugther Bianca Maria Sforza and her husband Emperor Maximilian I. (reigned 1486–1519)

Available facsimile editions:
Black Prayer Book of Galeazzo Maria Sforza – Österreichische Staatsdruckerei – Codex Vindobonensis 1856 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Österreichische Staatsdruckerei – Wien, 1930
Limited Edition: 200 copies

Black Prayer Book of Galeazzo Maria Sforza – Insel Verlag – Codex Vindobonensis 1856 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Insel Verlag – Frankfurt, 1982
Limited Edition: 100 copies

Black Prayer Book of Galeazzo Maria Sforza – Insel Verlag – Codex Vindobonensis 1856 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Insel Verlag – Frankfurt, 1982
Limited Edition: 400 copies

Black Prayer Book of Galeazzo Maria Sforza – Österreichische Staatsdruckerei – Codex Vindobonensis 1856 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Insel Verlag – Frankfurt, 1982
Limited Edition: Special binding (part of the total printrun)
Detail Picture

Black Prayer Book of Galeazzo Maria Sforza

Swimming Lessons

At first glance, this bas-de-page medallion miniature would appear to be yet another scene of Jesus being baptized in the River Jordan, but on closer inspection all the figures are beardless and there are no witnesses. What it actually shows is two people being taught how to swim in a river by a third who is standing. A wild boar can be seen seated on a stool in the frame of gold and silver tendrils to the right of the miniature and appears to be spinning silk.

Black Prayer Book of Galeazzo Maria Sforza – Österreichische Staatsdruckerei – Codex Vindobonensis 1856 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Single Page

Black Prayer Book of Galeazzo Maria Sforza

Jesus is Nailed to the Cross

This scene is made all the more vivid by the materials used: gold, silver, and bright colors that contrast wonderfully with the black-dyed vellum. The frame alone is a work of art and contains two medallion miniatures. On the left margin, the wife of the blacksmith Hedroit is depicted with two assistants forging the iron nails for Christ’s crucifixion while two soldiers fight over his robes at the bottom of the page.

In the primary miniature, soldiers are depicting nailing Christ to the cross and digging a hole in the ground for it. The two thieves who are to be crucified alongside Christ are seen in the background, as is Pontius Pilate, depicted on horseback with an armed escort. This famous miniature is a masterpiece, like the rest of the manuscript.

Black Prayer Book of Galeazzo Maria Sforza – Österreichische Staatsdruckerei – Codex Vindobonensis 1856 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Das Schwarze Gebetbuch (Luxury Edition)

Publisher: Österreichische Staatsdruckerei – Wien, 1930
Limited Edition: 200 copies
Binding: So-called teardrop-binding: red velvet with ten rossette-shaped fittings and 72 teardrop-shaped fittings and two elaborated brass clasps with enamelled miniatures
Commentary: 1 volume by Smital Ottokar
Language: German
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (color and size). The facsimile is not complete. Folios are not cut according to the original.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Formerly 7,800  â‚¬
Special Offer until 06/30/2024 (like new) 4,499  â‚¬

#2 Das Schwarze Gebetbuch (Morocco Leather Edition)

Insel Verlag – Frankfurt, 1982
Black Prayer Book of Galeazzo Maria Sforza – Insel Verlag – Codex Vindobonensis 1856 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Black Prayer Book of Galeazzo Maria Sforza – Insel Verlag – Codex Vindobonensis 1856 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Insel Verlag – Frankfurt, 1982
Limited Edition: 100 copies
Binding: Red morocco leather binding, gilt edges
Commentary: 1 volume (174 pages) by Ulrike Jenni and Dagmar Thoss
Language: German
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (color and size). The facsimile is not complete. Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)

#3 Das Schwarze Gebetbuch (Velours Leather Edition)

Insel Verlag – Frankfurt, 1982

Publisher: Insel Verlag – Frankfurt, 1982
Limited Edition: 400 copies
Binding: Red velours leather binding, gilt edges
Commentary: 1 volume (174 pages) by Ulrike Jenni and Dagmar Thoss
Language: German
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (color and size). The facsimile is not complete. Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)

#4 Das Schwarze Gebetbuch (Sonderbindung)

Insel Verlag – Frankfurt, 1982
Black Prayer Book of Galeazzo Maria Sforza – Österreichische Staatsdruckerei – Codex Vindobonensis 1856 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Black Prayer Book of Galeazzo Maria Sforza – Österreichische Staatsdruckerei – Codex Vindobonensis 1856 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Insel Verlag – Frankfurt, 1982
Limited Edition: Special binding (part of the total printrun)
Binding: Stamped brown leather
Commentary: 1 volume (174 pages) by Ulrike Jenni and Dagmar Thoss
Language: German
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (color and size). The facsimile is not complete. Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)
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