Grimani Breviary

Grimani Breviary – Salerno Editrice – ms. Lat. I 99 = 2138 – Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana (Venice, Italy)

Ghent and Bruges (Belgium) β€” 1510–1520

Probably the most extensive highlight of Flemish book art: beautiful illuminations comprising impressive miniatures and fantastical borders on almost every one of the fabulous 1,664 pages, created by the most important masters of the time

  1. One of the most beautiful and extensive testimonies to 16th century Flemish illumination

  2. It was created by some of the greatest masters of all time including Gerard David, Simon Bening, and Gerard Horenbout

  3. The impressive miniature program is comprised of 1,600 decorated pages covering a wide range of themes from the calendar to the grisaille painting

Grimani Breviary

Facsimile Copy Available!
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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Grimani Breviary

The famous Grimani Breviary is considered to be one of the most outstanding testimonials to early 16th century Flemish book illumination. Created around 1510–1520 in Bruges and Ghent, numerous leading illuminators were involved in its creation, including Gerard David (around 1460–1523), Simon Bening (around 1483–1561) and Gerard Horenbout (1465–1541). The 1,664 pages of the precious breviary are thoroughly illuminated: in addition to 80 elaborate full-page miniatures and wonderful calendar pages, each of which is a work of art on its own, charmingly arranged borders of flowers, fruit, tendrils, insects, small animals and filigree architecture adorn the liturgical texts. The eponym for this opulent Renaissance masterpiece is the Venetian cardinal, Doge's son and renowned art collector Domenico Grimani (1461–1523), who acquired it in 1520 and whose portrait was immortalized in a gilded bronze medallion on the original velvet binding.

Grimani Breviary

A wonderful calendar is considered to be one of the greatest treasures in the Grimani Breviary: the splendor of the manuscript finds expression in the full-page miniatures with the typical depictions of the course of the agricultural year. For example, there is an especially beautiful scene of winter, which simultaneously depicts an interior space and the events outside under the night’s sky. Yet this is only one of countless grandiose miniatures adorning the manuscript. 120 full-page and numerous smaller miniatures illustrate Christian scenes above all. This exceptional visual experience is brilliantly rounded out by the exuberant decoration of the ornamental and figurative marginal decorations with flowers, animals, fruits, and architectural motifs.

A Highpoint of Flemish Illumination

The Grimani Breviary is considered to be an outstanding specimen of Flemish illumination during the Renaissance because of its exceptionally high-quality and lavish book adornment, a highpoint in the history of illumination! Originating ca. 1510–20 in Flanders, numerous artists with famous names contributed to its genesis, including Gerard Horenbout, Simon and Alexander Bening, Gerard David, and the so-called Master of the David Scenes in the Grimani Breviary.

Miniature Painting at the Highest Level

The manuscript’s namesake, Cardinal Domenico Grimani (1461–1523), acquired the codex ca. 1520 and bequeathed it to the Republic of Venice. Thus, the Grimani Breviary belonged to the San Marco treasury until 1781 and is housed today in the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana in Venice. A splendid binding with dark-red velvet and gilded bronze ornaments makes the connection to Cardinal Domenico Grimani clear. A portrait of him is recorded on the front cover and a portrait of Doge Giovanni Grimani, his father, is found on the back. In this way, the exterior also fits the outstanding position of the Grimani Breviary as one of the most complex and interesting, beautiful and valuable Flemish manuscripts of the 16th century!


Alternative Titles
Breviarium Grimani
Breviario Grimani
Size / Format
1,664 pages / 27.5 Γ— 19.5 cm
Gothic Textura
80 full-page miniatures; 1550 quarter-pages motifs depicting vegetation, animals, insects and architecture, but also figural scenes; numerous decorated initials
Calendar, Proprium de tempore, Psalter, Offices not related to the church year, Proprium sanctorum
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Cardinal Domenico Grimani
Giovanni Grimani
Doge Pascale Cocogna

Available facsimile editions:
Grimani Breviary – Salerno Editrice – ms. Lat. I 99 = 2138 – Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana (Venice, Italy)
Salerno Editrice – Rome, 2009
Limited Edition: 750 copies (co-edition with Patrimonio)
Detail Picture

Grimani Breviary

August: A Noble Hunting Party

Dressed in the finest garments with elaborate feathered hats and riding gorgeous examples of horseflesh, a group of gentlemen and one lady are out for an aristocratic hunt. The figure in light blue with his back turned to us carries a grey hawk or falcon, the ultimate aristocratic accessory. Walking behind the party are their huntsmen, including a Moor – having exotic servants had been a symbol of great wealth since ancient Rome, when blonde-haired slaves from Germania were highly prized.

Grimani Breviary – Salerno Editrice – ms. Lat. I 99 = 2138 – Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana (Venice, Italy)
Single Page

Grimani Breviary

February: Rural Life in the Deep Winter

Gerard Horenbout was responsible for the calendar section of this masterpiece. Upon viewing this manuscript in 1521, the Venetian art historian Marcantonio Michiel declared that the calendar miniatures were especially fine, the February scene the best of all. This is an intimate glimpse of rural life when labor grinds to a halt because of snow.

The sheep stay warm together in their stall, a pig and chickens roam the yard, and a little boy pees out the door into the snow as a cat watches. Icicles hang down over the doorway, revealing a warm interior scene showing prosperous, brightly dressed farmers sitting around a fire, the smoke of which rises through a vent in the roof. In the background, a man and mule march toward a village in the snowy landscape.

Grimani Breviary – Salerno Editrice – ms. Lat. I 99 = 2138 – Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana (Venice, Italy)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Breviario Grimani

Salerno Editrice – Rome, 2009

Publisher: Salerno Editrice – Rome, 2009
Limited Edition: 750 copies (co-edition with Patrimonio)
Binding: Crimson velvet and plate decorated with elegant finely chiselled frames that surround scrolls and medals portraying Doge Antonio Grimani and Cardinal Domenico, in golden bronze. The facsimile comes in a joint case with acrylic cover
Commentary: 1 volume (84 pages) by Andrea Mazzucchi
Languages: English, Italian
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: €€€€€
(over 10,000€)
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