Book of Hours of Ippolita Maria Sforza

Book of Hours of Ippolita Maria Sforza

Paris (France) — Ca. 1495–1504

A nearly complete bestiary: a book treasure for the wife of the King of Naples created by the great Jean Bourdichon

  1. This particularly artistically sophisticated book of hours was commissioned by Ippolita Maria Sforza (1446–1484)

  2. Jean Bourdichon (1457/59–1521), one of the most important artists of the Early French Renaissance, created this gem

  3. It is so richly decorated with plants and animals that it also resembles a complete bestiary

Book of Hours of Ippolita Maria Sforza

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

This particularly artistically sophisticated book of hours was commissioned by Ippolita Maria Sforza (1446–1484). She belonged to the famous Sforza family, who ruled Lombardy from 1450 to 1535 as the dukes of Milan. For the book’s artistic furnishings, she engaged the painter and illuminator Jean Bourdichon (ca. 1457–1521), considered to be one of the most important artists of the Early French Renaissance. He embellished nearly all of the 300 pages with his intensely colorful and radiant miniatures, sweeping initials, and richly detailed bordures. Hundreds of plants and animals join the primary figures of biblical stories. As a result, the book of hours is nearly a complete medieval bestiary.

Book of Hours of Ippolita Maria Sforza

A book of hours is a layperson’s prayer and devotional book for the liturgy of the hours. These were especially popular among rich and literate nobles in the Late Middle Ages. An outstanding example thereof was commissioned by Ippolita Maria Sforza (1446–1484). She was a member of the Sforza family, who ruled Lombardy from 1450 to 1535 as the dukes of Milan. The illuminated manuscript originated ca. 1495–1504 in the French capital of Paris. The beholder finds full- or half-page miniatures, historiated initials, and decorative bordures on nearly all of its 300 pages. Moreover, the richness of the plants and animals is noteworthy, resembling a complete bestiary.

A French Illuminator

Jean Bourdichon, born in tours ca. 1457, is responsible for the intensely colorful book decoration. As one of the most significant artists of the Early Renaissance, he worked for the French kings Louis XI, Charles VIII, and Louis XII. Unfortunately, since only a few of his works have survived, the Book of Hours of Ippolita Maria Sforza represents a true rarity. The elegant style of the illuminator is distinguished by its fine painting style – he repeats short brush strokes over and over again. In doing so, he is able to achieve plasticity and thus describe the materiality of various matter. Garments thus appear soft and flowing, while the metallic armor has an iron glisten.

Atmospheric Landscapes

With Bourdichon, the typical execution of a gold background corresponds to an impressive landscape depiction. Whether merely serving as a background or not, the artist devotes serious attention to them. He reproduces a small fishing boat on a calm sea. Both castles and small cities are indicated on the highly coats. All of this is draped in blue evening light. In the miniature of the Betrayal, Bourdichon even augments the clear night sky with scattered stars.

A Rich World of Plants and Animals

Hundreds of depictions of plants and animals accompany the primary figures, not only in the markedly beautiful bordures, but also in the miniatures themselves. Thus, John the Evangelist appears accompanied by a splendid eagle. It sits to the left of John with an open beak and arrayed plumage. All things considered, the biodiversity of the animals depicted is so great that in this regard that the book of hours resembles a complete medieval bestiary. In doing so, it is a fable allegorically connecting the moralizing characteristics of animals with the Christian doctrine of salvation.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Hours of Hippolyta of Aragon
Libro d'ore di Ippolita d'Aragona
Stundenbuch der Ippolita Maria Sforza
Size / Format
300 pages / 19.5 × 13.0 cm
Origin
France
Date
Ca. 1495–1504
Language
Script
Gothic Textura
Illustrations
Nearly all of the 300 pages of the manuscript are furnished with either full- or half-page miniatures, historiated initials and decorative borders with hundreds of plants, and a complete medieval bestiary.
Content
Book of Hours with texts for private devotion
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Ippolita d’Aragona

Available facsimile editions:
Detail Picture

Book of Hours of Ippolita Maria Sforza

Pilate Washing his Hands

This is an exemplary specimen of French Renaissance illumination: Christ is shown bleeding from multiple wounds and crowned with thorns as one of the guards points to him. Helmets and spears indicate a throng of soldiers behind them. “When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.” (Matt. 27:24).

Libro de horas de Hipolita de Aragon y Sforza (Grandes Horas de Montserrat)
Single Page

Book of Hours of Ippolita Maria Sforza

Portrait of John the Evangelist

Jean Bourdichon created some of the most splendid Evangelist portraits, including this miniature of St. John, the youngest of the Twelve Apostles. He is depicted here as a beardless youth with rosy cheeks and long hair – such feminized depictions were possibly intended to make him more relatable to women, especially in works intended for female patrons like this.

Flanked by his symbolic eagle, John’s purple tunic and red cloak are highlighted by the delicate application of gold leaf, with golden rays of divine inspiration coming down from above. The background consists of the Sea of Galilee, where he fished with his brother, James the Apostle. An illusionistic gold frame gives the miniature the appearance of a panel painting.

Libro de horas de Hipolita de Aragon y Sforza (Grandes Horas de Montserrat)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Libro de horas de Hipolita de Aragon y Sforza (Grandes Horas de Montserrat)

CM Editores – Salamanca, 2014
Book of Hours of Ippolita Maria Sforza – Ms. 66 – Biblioteca de la Abadía (Montserrat, Spain)
Book of Hours of Ippolita Maria Sforza – Ms. 66 – Biblioteca de la Abadía (Montserrat, Spain) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: CM Editores – Salamanca, 2014
Binding: Black silk-velvet binding featuring original motifs: Gold-colored metal plates on the front and back covers with a specially-manufactured "pergamento stucco" impression by Fedrigoni and a "cracked" gold stamp identical to the original.
Commentary: 1 volume
Language: Spanish
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Illuminated by the gifted artist Jean Bourdichon, who produced works of art for four French Kings, the creative image program makes use of various painting techniques. This facsimile edition is one of three facsimiles known as "Triptico de Montserrat" (Montserrat Triptych).
Price Category: €€€ (3,000€ - 7,000€)
Edition available
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#2 Triptico de Montserrat (Library Edition)

CM Editores – Salamanca, 2014

Publisher: CM Editores – Salamanca, 2014
Commentary: 1 volume
Language: Spanish
3 volumes: 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.

#3 Triptico de Montserrat (Deluxe Edition)

CM Editores – Salamanca, 2014

Publisher: CM Editores – Salamanca, 2014
Binding: Luxury wooden box
Commentary: 1 volume
Language: Spanish
3 volumes: 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.
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