Hours of Frederick of Aragon

Hours of Frederick of Aragon Facsimile Edition

Tours (France) — 1501–1502

Begun in Naples, Italy and completed in Touraine, France: one of the greatest masterpieces of Renaissance book art adorned by 64 full-page and 34 smaller miniatures

  1. Frederick (1452–1504) took the unfinished work with him after abdicating as King of Naples in 1501

  2. It was completed by Jean Bourdichon, Ioan Todeschino, and the Master of Claude de France in 1502

  3. The miniatures were first executed on fine parchment before being glued into the architectural frames

Hours of Frederick of Aragon

  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Hours of Frederick of Aragon

Among the magnificent manuscripts created during the last phase of European book illumination, the Hours of Frederick of Aragon is considered to be truly exceptional. Work began on the manuscript in Naples ca. 1501, but King Frederick was forced to abdicate and go into a “gilded exile” in France. He had the manuscript completed in Touraine by a team of three artists in 1502: Jean Bourdichon, Ioan Todeschino, and the Master of Claude de France. The 62 full-page miniatures in the manuscript are the work of Bourdichon and are generally regarded as being his best work while Todeschino and the Master of Claude de France created the frames and bordures. These miniatures were first executed on fine parchment before being glued into the pages of the manuscript and integrated into the architectural frames. The result of this collaboration is one of the greatest masterpieces of Renaissance book art.

Hours of Frederick of Aragon

Described as a “particularly accomplished work of art” the Hours of Frederick of Aragon is one of the finest specimens of Renaissance book art to survive today. Aside from the typical texts found in a book of hours, the manuscript also contains pericopes of the Four Evangelists, the Hours of the Virgin, the Office of the Dead, the Penitential Psalms, and other liturgical texts. Unlike most books of hours, it does not have a calendar and Frederick’s coat of arms appears at the end of the codex instead of the beginning, which may have occurred when it was rebound during the 18th century.
It originated from the collaboration of three leading artists from the period and the sumptuous nature of its furnishings is an indication of the wealth of its royal patron, Frederick of Aragon (1452–1504), the last King of Naples from the Neapolitan branch of the House of Trastámara. Work on the manuscript was begun in 1501 and completed sometime in 1502. A scribe in Naples is believed to have executed the text in a humanist script before Frederick was deposed and forced to go into exile. Frederick brought one of his favorite artists, a Neapolitan named Ioan Todeschino (d. 1503), with him to France, where the illumination of the manuscript was completed.

Illuminated by an All-Star Team

In France, Todeschino worked in close collaboration with Jean Bourdichon (1457/59–1521) and the Master of Claude de France to create a work that bridges the gap between the French-Flemish tradition and the Venetian Renaissance. Bourdichon created the 62 full-page miniatures, which have been described as some of his best work. First pained on rectangles of thin parchment, they were glued onto pages in the book after their completion. Each miniature appears on the verso or left-hand page, accompanied by a richly decorated recto or right-hand side page with the text of a new section. They were then furnished by Todeschino and the Master of Claude de France with decorative frames that featured either floral ornamentation or classical elements such as pilasters, candelabras, precious stones, or imaginary figures in a distinctively Venetian-Paduan style.

A Life in Exile

Frederick became King of Naples after the death of his nephew and was crowned on the 26th of June 1497. However, the French Crown also had a claim on the kingdom, which was invaded in 1499. Although Frederick’s cousin Ferdinand II (1452–1516) came to his aid and drove out the French in 1501, Ferdinand retained the kingdom for himself and had Frederick deposed. Ironically, it was the King of France who offered Frederick a refuge and an annual annuity of thirty thousand pounds and thus he went into a “gilded exile” at the Château de Plessis-lez-Tours in the Loire Valley. It was there that he had this precious gem of book art illuminated, perhaps as a beautiful consolation prize for the loss of his kingdom.

The Road to Paris

As Frederick grew gradually poorer, he was forced to sell off much of his library to pay of debts in 1503. His wife Isabella del Balzo (1465–1533) inherited the rest of the collection, which then passed to her son Duke Ferdinand of Calabria (1488–1550). The Duke is believed to have brought the magnificent manuscript at hand to Spain, where it entered into the collections of the University of Valencia. It was one of five books bought by the Bibliothèque nationale de France in February of 1828 from an Englishman referred to as Monsieur Fergusson. At the time it already bore the stamp of Joseph Bonaparte (1768–1844), who had ruled as King of Naples from 1806 to 1808, but it is not known how he acquired the manuscripts nor how it came into the possession of Mr. Fergusson. One possible explanation is that the codex was taken as loot after the Battle of Vitoria in 1813 when some of the baggage of Joseph, then King of Spain, was seized by English troops. It was finally bought by the predecessor of today's Bibliothèque nationale de France, the French National Library, in 1828.


Alternative Titles
Stundenbuch Friedrichs von Aragon
Libro de Horas de Federigo de Aragona
Horæ ad usum Fratrum Prædicatorum, dites Heures de Frédéric d’Aragon
Size / Format
388 pages / 24.5 × 15.5 cm
64 full-page miniatures; 34 smaller miniatures
Frederick of Aragón (1452–1504)
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Isabella del Balzo
Ferdinand, Duke of Calabria
Joseph Bonaparte, King of Naples

Available facsimile editions:
Hours of Frederick of Aragon – CM Editores – Ms. Lat. 10532 – Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris, France) Facsimile Edition
CM Editores – Salamanca, 2021
Facsimile Editions

#1 Libro de Horas de Federigo de Aragona

CM Editores – Salamanca, 2021

Publisher: CM Editores – Salamanca, 2021
Commentary: 1 volume by Teresa D'Urso
Language: Spanish
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.
Price Category: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
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