Book of Hours of Maria of Navarre

Book of Hours of Maria of Navarre

Spain — ca. 1340

Decorated with no less than 391 gold miniatures: the first book of hours to be written on the Iberian Peninsula

  1. This 14th century manuscript is the first book of hours to be produced on the Iberian Peninsula

  2. Decorated with no less than 391 miniatures accented with gold leaf

  3. A masterpiece by the Spanish painter Ferrer Bassa (ca. 1285–1348), royal illuminator to the House of Aragon

Book of Hours of Maria of Navarre

  1. Description
  2. Single Page
  3. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Book of Hours of Maria of Navarre

The Book of Hours of Maria of Navarre was made ca. 1340 by the Spanish painter Ferrer Bassa. It originated from the commission of King Peter IV of Aragon. The manuscript is the first book of hours that originated from the Iberian Peninsula. It captivates through is incredible richness of images and generous gold decoration.

Book of Hours of Maria of Navarre

The most popular genre of books in the Middle Ages was undoubtedly the books of hours. The private payer and devotional books, which enjoyed especially great popularity among the nobility, originated, for the most part, from Belgium and France. The illuminators of the Flemish school published the most coveted and artistic codices of this type. Other European master also preoccupied themselves with the design of illuminated prayer books. The Book of Hours of Maria of Navarre is the first book of hours that originated from the Iberian Peninsula. It contains 391 miniatures decorated with gold and is the masterpiece of the Spanish painter Ferrer Bassa.

By Order of the Royal House of Aragon

Ferrar Bassa was a Catalonian illuminator of the Gothic style. He stood in the service of the royal house of Aragon and designed numerous frescoes and tapestries in various chapels and churches along with illuminated codices. Bassa is considered to be a pioneer of the art of Italian Trecento in Spain. His style contains elements of both the Sienese and Florentine styles. The book of hours for his commissioner Maria of Navarre is one of his most famous masterpieces. As King Peter IV of Aragon was travelling in 1342, he wrote to his wife Maria in a letter that she should send him Bassa’s beautiful manuscript. This anecdote demonstrates the deep admiration that the master experienced from the royal household.

Luxurious Book Decoration

The extravagant layout of the book of hours is capable of astounding the beholder to this day. The magnificent pictorial scenes of the work are decorated by gentle forms and harmonious image composition. The realistic handling of spatial depth and the use of gentle shading are typical for Bassa’s art. An additional trademark of the painter was portraying faces of the personae depicted with straight and pointy noses and with penetrating looks. The lively, colorful miniature scenes further mirror a boundless narrative pleasure through the lush application of gold decoration. Miniatures and pages of text were bordered in fantastical frames in the form of floral tendrils. The vines also contain small miniatures with depictions of important people from the orbit of the Spanish royal house. Hardly any other Spanish manuscript is on par with this image-rich manuscript.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Libro de Horas de María de Navarra
Stundenbuch der Maria von Navarra
Libro d’Ore di Maria di Navarra
Livre d’Heures de Marie de Navarre
Livro de Horas de Maria de Navarra
Size / Format
704 pages / 18.3 × 14.2 cm
Origin
Spain
Date
ca. 1340
Style
Language
Illustrations
391 miniatures illuminated with gold leaf
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Maria of Navarre, queen consort of the Crown of Aragon (1329–1347)

Available facsimile editions:
Book of Hours of Maria of Navarre – Ms. Lat. I 104/12640 – Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana (Venice, Italy)
M. Moleiro Editor – Barcelona, 1996
Limited Edition: 987 copies
Single Page

Book of Hours of Maria of Navarre

Death and Burial

This fine miniature in two registers is found in the book of hour’s section containing a prayer cycle known as the Office of the Dead. These prayers were said for the repose of the souls of the deceased in the hope that doing so would reduce their time in Purgatory. Wealthy people, kings especially, would make generous donations to monasteries so that the monks would pray to help lighten their burden of sin.

Presented in a wonderful frame of red, blue, and gold leaf, we see a man with an ashen complexion on his death bed and surrounded by his family in the upper register. In the scene below, we see his linen-wrapped body being lowered into a tomb. Expressive depictions of mourning women make both of these scene properly emotional and somber.

Libro de Horas de María de Navarra
Facsimile Editions

#1 Libro de Horas de María de Navarra

M. Moleiro Editor – Barcelona, 1996
Price Category: €€€ (3.000€ - 7.000€)
Edition available
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