Hours of Henry IV of France

Hours of Henry IV of France – M. Moleiro Editor – Latin 1171 – Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris, France)

Paris (France) — Ca. 1500

Worthy of a king: golden text pages and 60 full-page miniatures of breathtaking grisaille aesthetics in a visually stunning masterpiece of the French Renaissance, inspired by Jean Bourdichon and Jean Poyer

  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

Publisher's Price (new) 6,000  
Special Offer until 03/31/2024 (like new) 2,899  
  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Hours of Henry IV of France

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 thoroughly befitting of a king. This impressive beauty is completed by the 60 miniatures, which appear almost grisaille-like in their elegantly restrained colorfulness. The detail of garments and faces in interior scenes are matched by the grandiose landscapes of exterior scenes. 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.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Libro de horas de Enrique IV de Francia y III de Navarra
Stundenbuch Heinrichs IV von Frankreich
Size / Format
180 pages / 22.5 × 15.5 cm
Origin
France
Date
Ca. 1500
Language
Script
Humanistic minuscule
Illustrations
60 full-page grisaille miniatures, 16 small ink miniatures, foliage motifs in the margins
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Henry IV of France
Cardinal Charles de Bourbon

Available facsimile editions:
Hours of Henry IV of France – M. Moleiro Editor – Latin 1171 – Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris, France)
M. Moleiro Editor – Barcelona, 2017
Limited Edition: 987 copies (+ 77 copies with Roman numbers)
Detail Picture

Hours of Henry IV of France

Saint Sebastian

Sebastian is the patron saint of wells and plague sufferers, the dying, soldiers, stonemasons and many other professions. As was usual, this wonderful miniature shows the first part of his martyrdom in the 3rd century: As captain of the Praetorian Guard at Diocletian's court and a self-confessed Christian, he helped other Christians in need, whereupon the emperor condemned him to death through shooting. Here, the archers, who have already shot numerous arrows at the exposed saint, are part of the picture, while he is tied to a tree, which corresponds to the most common iconographic tradition.

According to legend, however, Sebastian did not die but was nursed back to health by the pious widow Irene, who was supposed to prepare him for burial. After he professed Christianity again before Diocletian, the latter had him beaten to death with maces in the Circus and thrown into the Cloaca Maxima, from which his body was recovered by fellow believers.

Hours of Henry IV of France – M. Moleiro Editor – Latin 1171 – Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris, France)
Single Page

Hours of Henry IV of France

Saint Maurice

The French caption, which appears in gold letters on the marble-like frame of this full-page miniature, leaves no doubt as to the content of the picture: "Saint Maurisse et ces Conpaignons" (English: "Saint Maurice and his Companions"). Maurice lived in the 3rd century AD and, as legend says, was the leader of the Theban Legion. He is venerated as the patron saint of the army and of knife and weapon smiths. From the High Middle Ages onwards, two imperial regalia of the Holy Roman Empire, the Imperial Sword and the Holy Lance, were also attributed to him.

Maurice and his legionaries became Christian martyrs when they were ordered to go into battle against fellow believers. They refused to do so and were eventually all brutally executed at the behest of Emperor Maximian, but without resistance. The miniature shows Maurice in the center of the image with his head bowed and an afflicted expression. Some of his companions are still discussing their situation, but their fate is already taking its course.

Hours of Henry IV of France – M. Moleiro Editor – Latin 1171 – Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris, France)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Libro de horas de Enrique IV de Francia y III de Navarra

M. Moleiro Editor – Barcelona, 2017

Publisher: M. Moleiro Editor – Barcelona, 2017
Limited Edition: 987 copies (+ 77 copies with Roman numbers)
Binding: Dark brown Maroccain leather
Commentary: 1 volume by Caroline Zöhl and Carlos Miranda García-Tejedor
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.
Publisher's Price (new) 6,000  
Special Offer until 03/31/2024 (like new) 2,899  
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