Hours of Engelbert of Nassau

Hours of Engelbert of Nassau Facsimile Edition

Flanders (Belgium) — Ca. 1470–1490

Knights in the midst of battle next to delicate floral frames: a Flemish book of hours with the remarkable union of acts of war and subtle artistic sophistication

  1. Count Engelbert II of Nassau (1451–1504) was a leading courtier of the Duchy of Burgundy

  2. His book of hours is widely regarded as a highlight of Flemish manuscript illumination

  3. Adorned by the Master of Mary of Burgundy with 7 full-page and 31 half-page miniatures in artful frames

Hours of Engelbert of Nassau

  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Hours of Engelbert of Nassau

This richly decorated book of hours was created by the famous Master of Mary of Burgundy for an unknown original commissioner but was finished at the behest of Count Engelbert II of Nassau, a soldier, courtier, and major patron of the arts who was once the leader of the Privy Council of the Duchy of Burgundy. Created in the 1470’s or 1480’s, it has 7 full-page miniatures and 31 half-page miniatures with intricate frames full of flowers, fruits, insects, animals, people, coins, medallions, jewels, vases, and ostrich feathers. This splendor inspired other illuminated manuscripts such as the Heures Voustre Demeure. The selection of figures who are presented in the manuscript – Saint Sebastian, Saint Christopher, and David the Warrior – and the exultation of chivalry reflect Engelbert’s character as a warrior and general while the sophistication of the work speaks to his tastes as a patron of the arts.

Hours of Engelbert of Nassau

This small but lavishly adorned book of hours arose from the collaboration of the Master of Mary of Burgundy and the Ghent copyist Nicolas Spierinc ca. 1480. It contains a book of hours in the Dominican rite, which is considered to be a highpoint of Flemish Illumination and contains miniatures more elaborate than those found in contemporary manuscripts like the Prayer Book of Charles the Bold or the History of Alexander by Quintius Curtius and went on to serve as a template for several miniatures in the splendid Heures Voustre Demeure. The manuscript is named after Count Engelbert II of Nassau (1451–1504), the leader of the Privy Council of the Duchy of Burgundy and member of a wealthy and powerful noble family who served as officers at the Burgundian Court in Bruges for three generations. Originally consisting of a single codex, the Hours of Engelbert of Nassau was rebound and separated into two volumes at the end of the 18th century.

New Innovations in Flemish Illumination

7 full-page and 31 half-page miniatures of the highest quality with intricate and innovative frames are presented in this Flemish masterpiece. The newly devised trompe-l'oeil technique, which creates an optical illusion making objects appear three-dimensional, was employed not only in the miniatures, but in the marginalia as well. Therefore, typical flat decorative elements are replaced by realistic flowers, birds, and insects as well as still-life objects such as shelves displaying bowls, plates, vases, jugs, and even skulls. Numerous playful human figures and drolleries can be found in the manuscript: e.g. a monkey on foot with a long lance resting on his shoulder followed by a lion dressed as a knight, mounted on a caparisoned unicorn, and accompanied by a monkey riding pillion (fol. 160r).

The Contested History of the Manuscript

Although he certainly was wealthy and sophisticated enough to commission a manuscript as magnificent as the one at hand, it is still debated whether Count Engelbert was the original patron or had the manuscript, perhaps first commissioned in the 1470’s, completed with the decorative marginalia in the early-1480’s. The martial and chivalric iconography as well as the emphasis on Saint Sebastian, Saint Christopher, and David the Warrior certainly points to a member of the Burgundian court. Regardless of who the original patron was, it passed into the possession of Philip I of Castile (1478–1506), the titular Duke of Burgundy, whose coat of arms, surrounded by the collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece, was painted over previous coats of arms throughout the manuscript. It then disappeared from all records for 250+ years before turning up in the possession of Charles-Adrien Picard (d. 1799) in 1767. After passing into the hands of the Paris family in 1780, it was sold to Henry Fiennes Pelham-Clinton, 2nd Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne (1720–94) in 1791 before being acquired by the famous English antiquarian Francis Douce (1757–1834), who bequeathed it along with the rest of his collections to the Bodleian Library in Oxford, where it resides today.


Alternative Titles
Stundenbuch des Engelbert von Nassau
Ca. 1470–1490
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Hours of Engelbert of Nassau – G. Braziller – MS. Douce 219-220 – Bodleian Library (Oxford, United Kingdom) Facsimile Edition
G. Braziller – New York, 1970
Facsimile Editions

#1 A Book of Hours for Engelbert of Nassau

G. Braziller – New York, 1970

Publisher: G. Braziller – New York, 1970
Commentary: 1 volume by Jonathan Alexander
Language: English
1 volume: This facsimile is not complete. Reproduction of 115 pages of the original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: € (under 1,000€)
Edition available
Price: Log in here!
You might also be interested in:
Prayer Book of Charles the Bold Facsimile Edition
Prayer Book of Charles the Bold
Flanders – 1469, ca. 1471 and ca. 1480–1490

With three portraits of the Burgundian Duke: a splendidly decorated masterpiece of Burgundian illumination made for one of the richest men of his time

Experience More
Isabella Breviary Facsimile Edition
Isabella Breviary
Flanders – Last decade of the 15th century

She sent Christopher Columbus exploring: one of the most beautiful and – with 1,000 pages – most extensive Flemish manuscripts for the Queen of Spain

Experience More
Filter selection