With 60 full-page grisaille miniatures: a visually stunning masterpiece of the French Renaissance with influences from Jean Bourdichon and Jean Poyer

Hours of Henry IV of France

Hours of Henry IV of France

Hours of Henry IV of France

  1. The prayer book of King Henry IV (1553-1610) is an outstanding masterpiece of French Renaissance illumination

  2. It is filled with gold backgrounds, varied frames and bordures, fine pen drawings, and outstanding miniatures

  3. The magnificent manuscript found itself in Henry’s possession in the famous Renaissance palace of Gaillon

Hours of Henry IV of France

Hours of Henry IV of France – Latin 1171 – Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris, France)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

The so-called Hours of Henry IV of France is counted among the most outstanding masterpieces of French Renaissance illumination. The splendor, which radiates from the consistently golden backgrounds of the pages, is entirely suitable for a king. This impressive beauty is completed by the 60 miniatures, which appear almost grisaille-like in their elegantly restrained colorfulness. This manuscript is exceptional all around!

Hours of Henry IV of France

Henry IV (1553-1610) was the first French King from the house of Bourbon. He distinguished himself as one of France’s most important monarchs, making numerous significant decisions, and whose reign left a deep impression on his country. As such, he guaranteed inter alia the religious freedom of protestants in the famous Edict of Nantes. Henry was married to Maria de’ Medici from the powerful Florentine dynasty. Even his own death was exceptionally tragic: he fell victim to an unexpected assignation during a coach ride in Paris.

A Royal Masterpiece from Paris

The impressive manuscript in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris bears Henry’s name today. Nonetheless, he was actually the second owner of this treasure. Previously, the book of hours was in the possession of Cardinal Charles II de Bourbon (1433-1488). Originating from an outstanding Parisian workshop in the last quarter of the 15th century and developed further in the following century, the magnificent manuscript found itself in Henry’s possession in the famous Renaissance palace of Gaillon. From there, it came to the Louvre in Paris and has been in the French National Library since 1720.

A Golden Sensual Frenzy

The coat of arms of Henry IV and Charles de Bourbon can already be found on the binding. Yet, when opening the pages of the elegant manuscript, one is immediately blinded by the exuberant splendor. The artistic design ranges from text pages with golden backgrounds above the impressively varied frames and bordures to 16 fine pen drawings and finally the outstanding miniatures. The text of the prayers, Psalms, and excerpts from the Gospels is artfully superimposed on the gold background in black and white, as is the calendar with the patron saints of Paris in French. The frames are endowed with emblems, devises, and symbolic ornaments.

The Grisaille Miniatures

Finally, the 60 miniatures present themselves as wonderfully elegant works of art. They are colorfully designed, but are very subtly colored, which lends them an impression of particularly sophisticated grisaille painting. Here one finds inter alia gorgeous pictures of the Evangelists in interior spaces with views of a wide, atmospheric landscape or illustrations of biblical tales. The artful draping of the garments and the extraordinary composition of the faces vies with the grandiose landscapes in the background. A discrete accentuation with gold coloring finally completed this pictorial sensual frenzy.

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Hours of Henry IV of France“

Libro de horas de Enrique IV de Francia y III de Navarra
Hours of Henry IV of France – Latin 1171 – Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris, France)
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Libro de horas de Enrique IV de Francia y III de Navarra

Publisher
M. Moleiro Editor – Barcelona
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