Book of Hours of Besançon

Book of Hours of Besançon – Orbis Mediaevalis – Ms. 0148 – Bibliothèque municipale (Besançon, France)

France — Ca. 1480–1485

Jean Colombe and the Golden Age of French illumination on every page: an exuberantly illuminated prayer book for private devotion by the masterful hand of the great genius painter

  1. This 15th century manuscript is a testament to the Golden Age of French Illumination

  2. The quality and style of the illumination point to the preeminent master Jean Colombe (ca. 1403 – ca. 1493)

  3. All 386 pages of the manuscript are adorned with miniatures and wonderfully-colorful initials

Book of Hours of Besançon

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Book of Hours of Besançon

The so-called Book of Hours of Besançon is an exceptional attestation of the art of 15th century French illumination. The 386 pages of the personal prayer book were adorned throughout with full-page miniatures, figurative scenes in the frames, or simply gorgeous initials. Jean Colombe is believed to be the master of this magnificence, the famous French painter who was employed, inter alia, by high-ranking patrons like Louis de Laval. His name is additionally associated with the Très Riches Heures by the Limbourg Brothers for the Duc de Berry. The Book of Hours of Besançon glimmers with exceptional compositions and a special treatment of light and landscape in the grandiose miniatures!

Book of Hours of Besançon

The so-called Book of Hours of Besançon is an exceptional attestation of the art of 15th century French illumination. The 386 pages of the personal prayer book were adorned throughout with full-page miniatures, figurative scenes in the frames, or simply gorgeous initials. Jean Colombe (1430–1493) is believed to be the master of this magnificence, the famous French painter who was employed, inter alia, by high-ranking patrons like Louis de Laval. His name is additionally associated with the Très Riches Heures by the Limbourg Brothers for the Duc de Berry. The splendid prayer book glimmers with exceptional compositions and a special treatment of light and landscape in the grandiose miniatures!

An Exceptional Manuscript

Manuscript 0148 of the Bibliothèque Municipale de Besançon is known as the so-called Book of Hours of Besançon. It probably originated ca. 1480–1485 in France. The precious devotional book, with its exuberant and consistently high-quality adornment, was surely a commission of a high-ranking and wealthy personality. All of the altogether 386 pages measuring 16.2 x 11.8 cm are visually adorned, either in the form of full-page miniatures, smaller depictions, or wonderfully-colorful initials.

The Impressive Miniatures

At the beginning, the manuscript presents a calendar with typical depictions of agrarian activities, but also of saints. The paintings already indicate, that a true master must have been at work here. Thus the following illustrated borders – narrow depictions alongside the text in portrait – show a cycle with scenes from the Old Testament, from the creation story to the Book of Tobit. The prophecies from the Book of Isaiah were ultimately depicted in full-page, large-format miniatures. In this way, the most important events of the New Testament are expressed in magnificent pictures!

A Master of his Profession

All this magnificence in the Book of Hours of Besançon points to an exceptional miniaturist. This is presumably a work by Jean Colombe. This famous French illuminator was employed by Louis de Laval and the Duke of Savoy, inter alia. For the latter, Jean Colombe completed, inter alia, the Très Riches Heures by the Limbourg brothers for the Duc de Berry. The exceptional treatment of light and landscape, as they appear in the miniatures of the manuscript in Besançon, are a trademark of Jean Colombe’s art. Furthermore, complicated room constructions and well-thought-out composition distinguish the manuscript in it elegant overall impression.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Libro de Horas de Besançon
Stundenbuch aus Besançon
Size / Format
366 pages / 16.1 × 11.1 cm
Origin
France
Date
Ca. 1480–1485
Style
Script
Bastard Secretary
Illustrations
Masterful illumination on every page, 386 miniatures enriched with gold including 12-full page miniatures
Content
Liturgy of the Hours, use of Rome
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Saint-Désiré at Lons-le-Saunier

Available facsimile editions:
Book of Hours of Besançon – Orbis Mediaevalis – Ms. 0148 – Bibliothèque municipale (Besançon, France)
Orbis Mediaevalis – Madrid, 2020
Limited Edition: 495 copies
Detail Picture

Book of Hours of Besançon

Portrait of Mark the Evangelist

Richly dressed in red and blue robes highlighted with fine strokes of gold ink, Saint Mark is shown taking a break from writing his Gospel to sharpen his stylus with a small pen knife. His Evangelist symbol, the lion, is shown sitting at his feet like a loyal dog and observing what his “master” is doing with great interest. The fact that the animal has only a passing resemblance to a lion means it can be assumed that a large dog served as a model for the artist.

Libro de Horas de Besançon
Single Page

Book of Hours of Besançon

The Annunciation

The Virgin Mary is shown kneeling in prayer as the Archangel Gabriel, dressed in cloth of gold, appears before her to deliver the incredible news that she will give birth to the Messiah. The scene normally shows Mary in her bedchamber, but Jean Colombe chose an unusual architecture for the backdrop consisting of a classical arcade with Gothic-style doors.

The procession of columns draws the eye to the door on the left, which leads into a walkway shaded by a vine-covered trellis, perhaps indicating that this is part of a palace complex with a walled garden. Aside from giving Colombe an opportunity to display his use of perspective, the arcade is filled with countless angels dressed in white who pay witness to the miraculous events.

Libro de Horas de Besançon
Facsimile Editions

#1 Libro de Horas de Besançon

Orbis Mediaevalis – Madrid, 2020

Publisher: Orbis Mediaevalis – Madrid, 2020
Limited Edition: 495 copies
Binding: Gold stamped leather
Commentary: 1 volume
Language: Spanish
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) 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. Publication expected in June 2021
Price Category: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!
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