Breviary of Martin of Aragon

Breviary of Martin of Aragon

Spain — 1398–1410 and 1420–1430

A royal breviary completed in two phases: one of the most densely and beautifully illuminated manuscripts of the Spanish Gothic

  1. Originally commissioned by King Martin of Aragon (1356–1410), it was completed at the behest of Alfonso V (1396–1458)

  2. It is adorned by 5 full-page miniatures, 24 half-page miniatures, 68 small miniatures, and numerous historiated initials

  3. It is a true masterpiece, every page of which is decorated with marvelous frames and marginalia

Breviary of Martin of Aragon

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Breviary of Martin of Aragon

Martin of Aragon (1356–1409), King of Aragon, Valencia, Sardinia, Corsica, Sicily, and Count of Barcelona ruled an empire that stretched across the Western Mediterranean. The magnificent Breviary of Martin of Aragon reflects the wealth and power of its patron with its masterful adornment, in fact, it is one of the most richly illuminated Spanish Gothic manuscripts. Despite this grandeur, or maybe because of it, most of the ownership history of the work prior to the 20th century remains shrouded in mystery. Every page of the text is decorated with marvelous frames and marginalia, and the codex is filled with masterful miniatures and historiated initials. This is truly a highlight of Spanish Gothic illumination!

Breviary of Martin of Aragon

One of the most densely and beautifully illuminated manuscripts of the Spanish Gothic style: the Breviary of Martin of Aragon. Commissioned by Martin of Aragon (1356–1410), King of Aragon, Valencia, Sardinia, Corsica, Sicily, and Count of Barcelona, this extraordinary manuscript reflects the wealth and power of a patron whose empire stretched across the Western Mediterranean. Work began on it in 1398 but it was not completed by the time of the King’s death, nonetheless, it is a masterpiece. After his death, the breviary passed to Alfonso V (1396–1458) the Magnanimous, who had it completed between 1420 and 1430. The manuscript seemingly disappeared in the following centuries until it reemerged in the library of Charles de Rothschild in Frankfurt am Main in the 20th century, and was bequeathed to the Bibliothèque nationale de France in 1947, where it is stored under the shelf mark MSS Rothschild 2529.

A Prayer Book Worthy of a King

A breviary is a prayer book similar to a book of hours, but more extensive and usually intended for use by the clergy during mass, while books of hours were typically used by members of the laity for private devotional use, or to follow along with the priest. Some monarchs, in order to distinguish themselves and have truly “kingly” manuscripts, commissioned breviaries for themselves. This particular text is oriented on the rite practiced at Poblet Abbey in Catalonia, where the kings of Aragon were laid to rest. It is mostly written in Latin, but the names of the months in the calendar section are written in Catalan, and there are also obituaries for members of the royal family of Aragon from the 13th and 14th centuries. These entries are written in blue ink to contrast with the red, black, and gold ink used in the rest of the calendar section. The half-page miniatures of the calendar section do not contain typical labors of the month but depict figures from church history, typically saints or biblical figures associated with the respective month. Every page of the text is framed with gorgeous tendrils of red, blue, and gold. The text is further adorned with 5 full-page miniatures, 24 half-page miniatures, 68 small miniatures, and numerous historiated initials. This splendor is contained within a gold embossed hard leather binding.

An Actively Involved Patron

The manuscript also contains three letters from the King pertaining to its creation. The first, written to the abbot of Poblet, is dated February 17th, 1398 and indicates that this is when work began, another from February 27th of the same year contains the king’s thanks for the abbot’s diligence and indicates that the King has sent a large number of parchments for the work. A letter from 1403, coincidentally dated to February 17th, asks for the illuminator to finish some important paintings for him and promises to send his own illuminator to help with work at the abbey.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Brevier von Martin von Aragon
Breviario de Martín de Aragón
Origin
Spain
Date
1398–1410 and 1420–1430

Available facsimile editions:
Breviary of Martin of Aragon – MSS Rothschild 2529 – Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris, France)
Reales Sitios – Madrid, 2010
Limited Edition: 800 copies
Detail Picture

Breviary of Martin of Aragon

David and Goliath; The Ark of the Covenant

A youthful David is depicted on the left preparing a second shot as Goliath, carrying a large red shield with a dragon, is reeling from the blow of the first stone. His helmet is askew and he is weak in the knees, about to fall. On the right, the Ark of the Covenant is flanked by two cherubim and carried alongside King David, who recovered the Ark from Kirjath-jearim and returned it to Jerusalem amid great rejoicing. Both scenes are presented before wonderfully patterned gold leaf backgrounds.

Breviario de Martín de Aragón
Single Page

Breviary of Martin of Aragon

Entry into Jerusalem

Commemorated today on Palm Sunday, Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem marks the beginning of the Passion cycle. Christ is depicted riding on a donkey, which symbolizes peace in contrast to a horse, and accompanied by a procession of his disciples proceeding on foot. The citizens of Jerusalem have come out to meet him, some lay their clothes on the ground while others climb a tree for a better look.

The figures in the scene are depicted with expressive faces, natural bodies, and are dressed in bright flowing garments. The page shines due to gold leaf in the scene’s frame, background, and halos, as well as the elaborate initial in the text. Cherubs and various birds including ducks and cranes populate the gorgeous frame of red-blue tendrils.

Breviario de Martín de Aragón
Facsimile Editions

#1 Breviario de Martín de Aragón

Reales Sitios – Madrid, 2010
Breviary of Martin of Aragon – MSS Rothschild 2529 – Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris, France)
Breviary of Martin of Aragon – MSS Rothschild 2529 – Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris, France) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Reales Sitios – Madrid, 2010
Limited Edition: 800 copies
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.
Price Category: €€€ (3,000€ - 7,000€)
Edition available
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