With 63 magnificent miniatures and over 350 lively bordures: a masterful example of Flemish book painting for an unknown patron

Fitzwilliam Book of Hours

Bruges (Flanders) — Circa 1510

Fitzwilliam Book of Hours

Fitzwilliam Book of Hours

Bruges (Flanders) — Circa 1510

  1. This masterpiece arose in Bruges ca. 1510 and is stored in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge

  2. Embellished by Flemish masters with 63 full-page miniatures and over 350 wonderful bordures

  3. An indication of the patron's identity is the coat-of-arms that was painted over with a cardinal’s hat

Fitzwilliam Book of Hours

Fitzwilliam Book of Hours

Harrowing of Hell

During the three days between the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, he descended triumphantly into Hell proclaiming good tidings to the dead and brought salvation to all the righteous who had died since the beginning of the world. Christ is shown in a historiated “D” initial reaching out to the denizens of Hell with his staff in hand and dressed in a red cloak. The initial itself incorporates a gold leaf background and an acanthus leaf pattern.

Fitzwilliam Book of Hours

Alternative Titles:
  • Fitzwilliam-Stundenbuch
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

One of the most outstanding treasures in the collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge: the so-called Fitzwilliam Book of Hours. This masterpiece is a manuscript that arose in Bruges as the beginning of the 16th century, which features 63 full-page miniatures. These amaze with their high-quality execution and varied design. Four important painters partook in its engrossment. It is immediately clear to every beholder that this must have come from the commission of a high-ranking patron, who is still unknown. An impressive work from the flowering of Flemish illumination!

Fitzwilliam Book of Hours

One of the most outstanding treasures in the collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge: the so-called Fitzwilliam Book of Hours. This masterpiece is a manuscript that arose in Bruges as the beginning of the 16th century, which features 63 full-page miniatures. These amaze with their high-quality execution and varied design. Four important painters partook in its engrossment. It is immediately clear to every beholder that this must have come from the commission of a high-ranking patron, who is still unknown. An impressive work from the flowering of Flemish illumination!

Four Masters of their Craft

63 full-page miniatures altogether are spread across the 370+ pages of the Fitzwilliam Book of Hours. These are surrounded by gorgeous bordures and indicate that the manuscript is something special. Every page of text is also adorned with marginal bordures filled with floral ornamentation and the like. Various colored initials wonderfully round out this homogenous visual impression. Several significant miniaturists were involved with this gorgeous manuscript: alongside the Master of the Dresden Hours (active in Bruges ca. 1480-1515), the Master of James IV of Scotland (ca. 1488-1525), and the Master of St. Michael, the so-called Master of the Add. MS. 15677 is worthy of note, whose names comes from a manuscript in the British Library that is attributed to him.

Perfect Compositions

These masters of illumination created an outstanding masterpiece of the great Flemish tradition of illumination with the Fitzwilliam Book of Hours. The calendar, Psalms, and prayers for various events and saints are wonderfully illustrated with thematically-appropriate miniatures. The themes of the miniatures include the lives of saints, e.g. Saint George or St. Barbara, but also biblical tales such as the encounter between the Three Living and the Three Dead. The large miniatures are each imbedded in a broad, magnificent frame, which visually supplements or simply adorns each depiction. These decorative frames are filled with the typical natural depictions of flowers and fruits, small animals and insects. There are also other pages that emphasize the exceptional mastery of their painter: e.g. the depiction of the architecture of a wonderful shrine, in which the primary miniature is embedded in a thematically-appropriate manner.

The Mysterious Patron

The patron of this outstanding books of hours is still unknown today – an indication of his person** is perhaps the coat-of-arms that was painted over with a cardinal’s hat on one of the pages toward the front. Having said this, the splendor and outstanding quality of the paintings points to a prominent personality, who could afford such a gold-adorned devotional book. The *Fitzwilliam Book of Hours arose in Bruges ca. 1510 and is a marvel of early-16th century Flemish illumination. Its further history and provenance remain mysterious. It came into the collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge in 1975, where it represents one of the treasures of this significant manuscript collection.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Fitzwilliam-Stundenbuch
Size / Format
370 pages / 19.6 x 13.2 cm
Date
Circa 1510
Language
Illustrations
63 full-page miniatures and 350 decorated borders
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours

Fitzwilliam Book of Hours

May: Suitor Courting Young Woman

Not all labors of the month, illustrated calendar pages depicting an activity specific to the respective time of year, show people toiling in the field or chopping wood. Leisure activities like boat rides were also depicted, or in this case, a labor of love. A young suitor with flowing blond hair, a red hat, and blue cloak courts a woman – the harpist climbs a ladder with a potted plant to give his darling.

Delicate strokes of gold ink accent inter alia the splendid clothes of the figures while a silver and gold initial precedes the text. The upper-right corner has the Gemini zodiac symbol, set in a cloud medallion amidst a pale sky with migrating birds. A masterfully perspective Dutch cityscape serves as the stage for this scene.

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

Fitzwilliam Book of Hours
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Fitzwilliam Book of Hours – MS 1058-1975 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
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Fitzwilliam Book of Hours

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
The Folio Society – London, 2009
Limited Edition
1180 copies
Binding
Since the binding on the original manuscript, kept in the Fitzwilliam Museum, is a Victorian interpretation, a sumptuous new binding has been created for this Folio Society facsimile, using a pomegranate design present in several illuminations (see, for example, the miniature of St Barbara). The gorgeous fabric is a silk-woven jacquard embellished with gold weft, specially commissioned from Stephen Walters and Sons, a mill originally founded by a Huguenot silk-weaver in the 1720s.
Commentary
1 volume (144 pages) by Stella Panayotova
Price Category: €€
Edition available
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