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

Briçonnet Book of Hours

Tours (France) — ca. 1485

Briçonnet Book of Hours

Briçonnet Book of Hours

Tours (France) — ca. 1485

  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)
Alternative Titles:
  • Briçonnet Heures
  • Das Briçonnet-Stundenbuch
  • Briçonnet Hours
Briçonnet Book of Hours – Ms. 78 – Teylers Museum (Haarlem, Netherlands)
Briçonnet Book of Hours – Ms. 78 – Teylers Museum (Haarlem, Netherlands)
Briçonnet Book of Hours – Ms. 78 – Teylers Museum (Haarlem, Netherlands)
Briçonnet Book of Hours – Ms. 78 – Teylers Museum (Haarlem, Netherlands)
Briçonnet Book of Hours – Ms. 78 – Teylers Museum (Haarlem, Netherlands)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

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.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Briçonnet Heures
Das Briçonnet-Stundenbuch
Briçonnet Hours
Size / Format
288 pages / 20.9 × 14.4 cm
Date
ca. 1485
Language
Illustrations
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
Content
Book of Hours (Office of the Virgin, of the Passion of St John, of the Penitential Psalms, and of the Office of the Dead)
Artist / School

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Briçonnet Book of Hours“

Das Briçonnet-Stundenbuch
Briçonnet Book of Hours – Ms. 78 – Teylers Museum (Haarlem, Netherlands)
Briçonnet Book of Hours – Ms. 78 – Teylers Museum (Haarlem, Netherlands)
Briçonnet Book of Hours – Ms. 78 – Teylers Museum (Haarlem, Netherlands)
Briçonnet Book of Hours – Ms. 78 – Teylers Museum (Haarlem, Netherlands)
Briçonnet Book of Hours – Ms. 78 – Teylers Museum (Haarlem, Netherlands)
Imageof

Das Briçonnet-Stundenbuch

Publisher
Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Luzern, 2020
Limited Edition
680 copies
Binding
Decorative red leather binding with rich gold embossing on the front and back covers, spine and edges
Commentary
1 volume by Mara Hofmann / Christine Seidel / Pierre-Gilles Girault
Language: German
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