All in gold and purple: one of the last and most beautiful purple manuscripts of the Late Middle Ages

Durazzo Book of Hours

Parma (Italy) — Beginning of the 16th century

Durazzo Book of Hours

Durazzo Book of Hours

Parma (Italy) — Beginning of the 16th century

  1. The painter and goldsmith Francesco Marmitta (ca. 1460-1505) designed this incredible interplay of purple and gold

  2. The book of hours named after its last owner is dressed with a noble garment of gold, silver, and precious stones

  3. Beautiful calligraphy, sensitive lines, and soulful landscapes: a masterpiece of the Renaissance

Libro d'Ore Durazzo

Durazzo Book of Hours

The Specter of Death

Although Death is most typically portrayed as a psychopomp – an impartial guide to the afterlife devoid of judgement, it is presented here as the Angel of Death with wings, a crown, and a red robe trimmed in gold. This is rooted in the tradition that Death is an angel to whom God has given dominion over the deceased. The miniature shows men drowned in a shipwreck, a man pierced through the throat with an arrow, another laid low with disease, and finally a white-haired man dying of old age.

Durazzo Book of Hours

Alternative Titles:
  • Libro d'Ore Durazzo
  • Durazzo-Stundenbuch
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

The Durazzo Book of Hours arose in Italy at the beginning of the 16th century. It was designed by the popular painter and goldsmith Francesco Marmitta. The manuscript is recorded in golden script on purple vellum. The splendid manuscript is furnished with refined miniatures and initials, as well as an astoundingly valuable binding embellished with noble stones, gold, and silver.

Durazzo Book of Hours

Books of hours were handwritten and illuminated codices that were used for prayer and private devotion. The valuable, well-appointed manuscripts were mostly commissioned by members of the nobility. Books of hours rose to become the overall most-beloved book genre of the Middle Ages. The Durazzo Book of Hours, which was named after its last owner, is one of the most unusual masterpieces of this genre. The valuable codex was composed in golden script on purple vellum. No other book of hours boasts these characteristics. Six astonishing, full-page miniatures and over 200 decorative initials additionally adorn the special manuscript.

A Universal Talent

The artist Francesco Marmitta was responsible for the thrilling design of the splendid codex. Marmitta was an unusually talented Italian illuminator and calligrapher. The versatile artist from Parma was famous for his work as a painter, sculptor, and goldsmith. He displayed his prowess in world-renowned luxury manuscripts such as the Missale Domenico della Rovere, for example. The painter’s refined pictures distinguish themselves through a sensible layout of the line and through the pronounced talent of the master in the field of landscape painting. His special preference for realistic depictions of jewels, precious stones, and medallions lends the miniatures an incomparably sumptuous flavor.

A Unique Book Treasure

The precious manuscript’s purple pages with gold script are reminiscent in their style of royal robes and garments. The truly kingly impression that the work leaves behind in its beholders, is further strengthened by the many refined depictions of valuable gems and noble stones. The elegant, unusually-designed binding of the book is no less splendid. It consists of a bed of purple velvet and is decorated with chiseled elements of silver and gold. Two silver clasps embellished with small rubies round out the binding of the truly majestic work.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Libro d'Ore Durazzo
Durazzo-Stundenbuch
Size / Format
432 pages / 14.3 x 9.7 cm
Date
Beginning of the 16th century
Language
Illustrations
6 full-page illuminations and 201 illumiated initials
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Libro d'Ore Durazzo

Durazzo Book of Hours

December: Slaughtering Swine

The calendar sections found at the beginning of books of hours usually contain depictions of “labors of the month”, i.e. activities that are typical for the respective time of year, December in this case. The richness of the materials for this page – purple parchment, gold ink, classical floral motifs, and square medallion miniatures – allows for the elegant, restrained design chosen by the artist.

The miniature on the left depicts the relevant zodiac symbol, Capricorn, depicted as a sea-goat against a sky blue background with an orange sun. On the right, a butcher is depicted carving up the carcass of a pig, which is likely being prepared for smoking, brining, or some other method of preserving the meat through the long winter.

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

Libro d'Ore Durazzo
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
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Libro d'Ore Durazzo

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Franco Cosimo Panini Editore – Modena, 2008
Limited Edition
980
Binding
Velvet with gilded silver and two rubies.
Commentary
1 volume by Andrea De Marchi, Davide Gasparotto, Beatrice Bentivoglio-Ravasio, Laura Malfatto and Laura Nuvoloni
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