La Flora Book of Hours

La Flora Book of Hours

Bruges or Ghent (Belgium) — 1483–1505

Designed by Simon Marmion and others: a “flowery” overview of the splendor of Flemish illumination

  1. A testimonial to 15th century Flemish illumination and the great talent of Simon Marmion (ca. 1425–1489)

  2. The manuscript with rich floral décor was presumably assembled from fragments of various older works

  3. Numerous other masters, known only by their names of convenience, contributed to this splendor

La Flora Book of Hours

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
La Flora Book of Hours

The so-called La Flora Book of Hours in an impressive testimonial to the exceptional art of Simon Marmion. 22 large-format Miniatures present gorgeous compositions from the hand of this master, and this is only a small portion of the 100+ miniatures by various great masters of their craft that adorn the precious book of hours. A grandiose overview of 15th century Flemish illumination in a single manuscript!

La Flora Book of Hours

Simon Marmion (ca. 1425–89) was already famous among his contemporaries as one of the greatest miniaturists of his time, the second half of the 15th century. Marmion came from a family of illuminators out of Amiens and was active in northern France and Flanders. He worked in Lille under Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy and also stood in service to Charles the Bald and Margaret of York at the Burgundian court. His painting is characterized by the exceptional, emotional expressiveness of his figures and a wonderful treatment of light.

Various Masters in One Manuscript

In the La Flora Book of Hours, stored today in Naples’ Biblioteca Nazionale “Vittorio Emanuele III” in Naples, the grandiose painting of Simon Marmion is strikingly perceptible. This precious manuscript originated from Flanders during the period of 1483–1505 – presumably in Ghent of Bruges, the centers of the famous Flemish illumination of the 15th century. The manuscript was presumably assembled from fragments of various older manuscripts, which alongside the miniatures by Simon Marmion also contained works of art by the Master of the Dresden Prayer Book, the Master of the Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I, and the Master of the Prayer Books of around 1500.

The Rich Book Decoration

The book of hours presents 102 miniatures of the highest quality on 736 pages, of which 36 are full-page, 28 half-page, 30 small miniatures, and 24 calendar pictures. Historiated initials and the coat of arms with the insignia of Charles VIII of France (1470–98) additionally adorned the pages alongside rich floral ornamentation. Of the full-page miniatures 22 are from Simon Marmion and 8 from the Maximilian Master. These are all cut and pasted and thus allow one to assume that they originally came from another manuscript.

Close by the Beholder

An idiosyncrasy of this book-treasure is found in Marmion’s miniatures: in an innovative form of presentation positioning the figures at the front of the picture. As a result, they stand near to the beholder and appear almost like portraits, e.g. Elisabeth and Mary in the depiction of the Visitation. These close-up and monumental depictions by Simon Marmion simultaneously effected an unmitigated focus on the main occurrences. In this way, the La Flora Book of Hours simultaneously allows an overview of the Flemish illumination of various artists and gives a wonderful inside view into the art of the great Simon Marmion!

Codicology

Alternative Titles
La Flora (Horae Beatae Mariae Virginis)
Il codice Flora
La Flora-Stundenbuch
Size / Format
736 pages / 21.5 × 13.5 cm
Origin
Belgium
Date
1483–1505
Language
Illustrations
102 miniatures, 36 of them full-page. Rich floral decoration
Artist / School
Previous Owners
King Charles VIII of France (1483–1498)

Available facsimile editions:
La Flora Book of Hours – Ms. I.B.51 – Biblioteca Nazionale "Vittorio Emanuele III" (Naples, Italy)
De Agostini/UTET – Rome/Turin, 2008
Limited Edition: 664 copies
Detail Picture

La Flora Book of Hours

February: Sitting by the Fire

In the cold climates of the Northern Hemisphere, February is often the snowiest and bitterest of the winter months. Labor was virtually impossible during this time in a medieval agrarian society, so rather than a “labor of the month”, the miniature for February typically showed a domestic scene of people gathered around the hearth. Although all richly-clad as nobles, one of the people in this scene is shamelessly emptying a flagon of wine into his mouth as the others look on disapprovingly.

La Flora (Horae Beatae Mariae Virginis)
Single Page

La Flora Book of Hours

Beheading of John the Baptist

This scene is unusual in that it depicts John the Baptist in the moment of his martyrdom, instead of showing the immediate aftermath or the presentation of his head, as is common. Despite the size of this miniature, it is extremely refined with realistic bodies, garment folds, and use of perspective as well as expressive faces, fine architectures, and a pastoral landscape in the background.

The frame is as impressive as the scene itself, and these golden frames with detailed depictions of flowers appear throughout the codex, giving the book of hours its name. Not only are the flowers depicted with incredible realism, but their shadows are as well. A handful of insects, including a marvelous butterfly, pollinate these gorgeous blossoms.

La Flora (Horae Beatae Mariae Virginis)
Facsimile Editions

#1 La Flora (Horae Beatae Mariae Virginis)

De Agostini/UTET – Rome/Turin, 2008
La Flora Book of Hours – Ms. I.B.51 – Biblioteca Nazionale "Vittorio Emanuele III" (Naples, Italy)
La Flora Book of Hours – Ms. I.B.51 – Biblioteca Nazionale "Vittorio Emanuele III" (Naples, Italy) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: De Agostini/UTET – Rome/Turin, 2008
Limited Edition: 664 copies
Binding: Green leather embossed with gold vases, flowers, and a coat of arms
Commentary: 1 volume (115 pages) by Mauro Giancaspro and Alma Serena Lucianelli
Language: 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.
Price Category: €€€€ (7,000€ - 10,000€)
Edition available
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