Briçonnet Book of Hours

Briçonnet Book of Hours – Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Ms. 78 – Teylers Museum (Haarlem, Netherlands)

Tours (France) — Ca. 1485

Jean Poyer's masterpiece commissioned by the cardinal and finance minister of the French king: 25 splendid miniatures like panel paintings in one of the most beautiful books of hours of the French Renaissance

  1. Created ca. 1485 in Tours by Jean Poyer (d. 1503), one of the greatest illuminators in France

  2. With 25 full-page, richly detailed miniatures in bold colors that look like panel paintings

  3. Commissioned by Cardinal Guillaume Briçonnet (1445–1514), Archbishop of Narbonne and Minister of Finance under the French King Charles VIII.

Briçonnet Book of Hours

Ms. 78 Teylers Museum (Haarlem, Netherlands)
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€€
(3,000€ - 7,000€)
  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Briçonnet Book of Hours

A true masterpiece of illumination from the early days of the French Renaissance: the Briçonnet Book of Hours was created ca. 1485 in Tours, a product of the famous workshop of Jean Poyer. Although his life dates are uncertain, Poyer was active from 1465 to ca. 1503 and enjoyed the patronage of three French kings, creating gorgeous manuscripts for them and their queens. What is more, Poyer was famous for planning various festivals, spectacles, pageants, and royal funerals. This manuscript is the first to be attributed to him and is distinguished by its 25 full-page miniatures, which are painted with trompe l’oeil decorative frames to give them the appearance of being panel paintings – a unique innovation. The incredible color palette brings scenes to life that feature life-like human figures in gorgeous architectural settings and landscapes.

Briçonnet Book of Hours

This stunning book of hours is the first manuscript attributed to the master illuminator Jean Poyer, one of the greatest artists of the French Renaissance. Produced in Tours ca. 1485, the manuscript is adorned with 25 full-page miniatures of the highest quality. Although its patron remains unknown, it was likely Guillaume Briçonnet (1445–1514), a member of the French royal court who served two kings. Regardless of who commissioned it, the pages of the work are filled with overwhelming colors and miniatures that resemble panel paintings in terms of both their artistic quality and their realism.

In the Employ of Three French Kings

Although his exact life dates are not known, Jean Poyer was active in Tours from 1465 to 1503 and was commissioned with great artworks for three kings of France and their queens: Louis XI (r. 1461–83), Charles VIII (r. 1483–98), and Louis XII (r. 1498–1515). Aside from being a painter, Poyer also planned various festivals, spectacles, pageants, and royal funerals. Anne of Brittany (1477–1514) was queen consort to both Charles VIII and Louis XII and was the recipient of one of his most splendid works, the Great Hours of Anne of Brittany. It is stylistically similar to the work at hand with full-page miniatures in golden frames and an unbelievably rich color palette. Although the precise year of his death is not known, Jean Poyer’s influence continued after his death. After his workshop collapsed, some members refused to join the workshop of his rival in Tours, Jean Bourdichon, and instead moved to Paris where they continued in a “pseudo-Poyer” style. The Master of Claude de France is the only painter that is considered to be Poyer’s true artistic heir.

Marvelous and Mysterious

The full-page miniatures of this manuscript are comparable in quality to contemporary panel paintings and furthermore, are intentionally presented that way using trompe l’oeil decorative frames, which is unique. Their splendid color palettes and gold leaf overwhelm the senses while the depiction of facial features and human figures, garments and architectures, interior spaces and landscapes is exemplary. The work ignores the typical structure of a book of hours so as to place the emphasis on the art – this manuscript appears to have been commissioned more as a show piece than as a practical religious devotional manuscript. Nonetheless, the presumably very wealthy and sophisticated patron of this manuscript remains uncertain, which is rare for a work of such beauty from such a famous master. A small coat of arms in a “C” initial on fol. 10v belongs to the Briçonnet family, and it is theorized that Guillaume Briçonnet, a French minister who would have been a bishop at the time, may have commissioned the book as a gift to his wife. However, it still cannot be said for sure who the patron was.


Alternative Titles
Briçonnet Heures
Das Briçonnet-Stundenbuch
Briçonnet Hours
Size / Format
288 pages / 20.9 × 14.4 cm
Ca. 1485
25 full-page miniatures in powerful gleaming colours, decorated with gold heightening and silver, numerous gilded decorative initials with trompe l’œil precious stones and pearls, colourfully designed line-fillers on delicately painted gold grounds
Book of Hours (Office of the Virgin, of the Passion of St John, of the Penitential Psalms, and of the Office of the Dead)
Guillaume Briçonnet
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Briçonnet Book of Hours – Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Ms. 78 – Teylers Museum (Haarlem, Netherlands)
Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Lucerne, 2020
Limited Edition: 680 copies
Detail Picture

Briçonnet Book of Hours

Adoration of the Magi

As their entourage waits outside and looks through the window of the stable, which the Holy Family is sharing with a cow, the Magi pay homage to the Messiah. All the figures are richly dressed in the French Renaissance style, except for the naked Baby Jesus, who is adorned by a hoop nimbus with three lily-shaped bundles that indicate his membership in the Holy Trinity. Joseph stands behind the Virgin Mary, who also has a hoop nimbus, and examines the vessel containing the first gift.

Briçonnet Book of Hours – Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Ms. 78 – Teylers Museum (Haarlem, Netherlands)
Single Page

Briçonnet Book of Hours

Arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane

This full-page miniature resembling a panel painting is a true masterpiece attesting to the skills of the master of Jean Poyer. Not only does it condense events from the Kiss of Judas to St. Peter’s attempt to stop them by cutting off the ear of one of the arresting officers to the actual arrest, but Poyer managed to create a realistic night scene.

Two torches and two lamps, one of which has been conveniently dropped to the ground to illuminate the scene from below, provide just enough light. One can see the look of resignation on Peter’s face as he sheaths his sword, the haggard face of the soldier who seizes the arm of Jesus, the false countenance of Judas as he leans in, and even the faces of the soldiers, whose spears are like a forest in the background.

Briçonnet Book of Hours – Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Ms. 78 – Teylers Museum (Haarlem, Netherlands)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Das Briçonnet-Stundenbuch

Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Lucerne, 2020

Publisher: Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Lucerne, 2020
Limited Edition: 680 copies
Binding: Decorative red leather binding with rich gold embossing which reproduces the original 18th-century binding.
Commentary: 1 volume by Mara Hofmann, Christine Seidel, Roger S. Wieck and Pierre-Gilles Girault
Language: German

The commentary volume not only explains the rich pictorial program and its iconographies, but also deals with the biographical and cultural background of the illuminator Jean Poyer as well as the patron of the Book of Hours, Guillaume Briçonnet.
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.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€€
(3,000€ - 7,000€)
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