Moscow Book of Hours

Moscow Book of Hours – Coron Verlag – F. 183 Nr. 446 – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)

Paris (France) β€” Around 1475

Mighty castles in enchanting landscapes and richly detailed interiors: a lovingly designed book of hours from the heyday of the French Renaissance preserved today in St. Petersburg

  1. This French Renaissance manuscript is richly adorned with gold leaf and text written in gold ink

  2. At least two illuminators, possibly one Dutch and one French, created the marvelous miniatures

  3. The original patron cannot be determined because their escutcheon with a crown was scrapped off

Moscow Book of Hours

F. 183 Nr. 446 National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)
  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Moscow Book of Hours

The Moscow Book of Hours is an imposing parchment manuscript originating in Paris in the 1470s. With a total of 17 large-format miniatures and a 24-picture calendar cycle, it invites the beholder into a fantastical world of lovingly designed interior spaces and enchanting landscapes with georgeous castles and palaces. At the same time, both the artistic pictorial works and the opulent borders, magnificent decorated initials and the neatly written texts are embellished throughout with gold, which makes the manuscript an extremely precious testimony to late medieval private devotion. Two talented illuminators were probably involved in this luxurious masterpiece, who had close connections to Dutch and French artists such as Rogier van der Weyden and the Master of CoΓ«tivy. Who commissioned them to create the magnificent manuscript is still unclear today, as any identifying marks of the patron, such as the coat of arms, have been scraped off.

Moscow Book of Hours

The breathtaking Moscow Book of Hours, which contains 17 large-format miniatures, a 24 picture calendar cycle, and lavish bordures on 173 of its 470 pages, originated in Paris in the 1470’s. Additionally, there are 200 pages adorned with glimmering gold print and 357 pages with real 23 karat gold. Such a splendidly furnished book of hours served as a devotional and prayer book for the canonical hours. This book type emerged in the 13th century and was initially intended for laymen, but was later used by clerics. Especially popular with the rich and literate aristocracy, it was disseminated as a private devotional book in the late Middle Ages.

The Question of Patronage

Always interesting, yet never easy to answer, is the question of who patronized precious manuscripts during the Middle Ages. Regarding the Moscow Book of Hours, hidden evidence indicates that it must have been someone of high rank. This is indicated by a coat of arms and, within the miniatures, recurring symbols of wealth and nobility. For example, a painting shows a patron saint kneeling on a stool with a crown on it. Unfortunately, both the crown and the coat of arms have been scraped so that no further insights can be gained from them. This often occurred when later owners of manuscripts wanted to delete the memories of the predecessor. Thus, the name of the person who commissioned the multifaceted Moscow Book of Hours remains forever unknown.

Impulses from France and the Netherlands

At least two illuminators were involved with the marvelous miniatures. The fairytale landscapes with their castles and forests as well as the lovingly-designed interior spaces clearly bespeak an influence from the CoΓ«tivy Master, who was counted among the leading Parisian illuminators of the time and was known for his proximity to Dutch painting. References to Rogier van der Weyden (1399/1400–1464) can also be recognized in the miniature of Mark the Evangelist. Such an elaborate architectural design was especially popular with the Dutch masters. Such similarities probably came about through the use of a sample collection containing a variety of drawings and templates and was accessible in the workshop of the two painters.

A fragmentary Cycle Since the 19th Century

Each part of the book of hours contains a miniature cycle of considerable size, but unfortunately, 12 depictions are missing altogether, among them the Adoration of the Magi, the Flight to Egypt, and almost the entire Passion cycle. It may be that collectors in the 19th century, when medieval art and illumination came into vogue in Western Europe, ruthlessly tore the pages out of their context in order to market them individually.


Alternative Titles
Moskauer Stundenbuch
Size / Format
470 pages / 18.5 Γ— 13.5 cm
Around 1475
17 large-format miniatures, 24 pictures of the calendar cycle, all pages decorated with gold, abundant border decoration on 173 pages, over 1200 one- or two-line gold initials
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Moscow Book of Hours – Coron Verlag – F. 183 Nr. 446 – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Coron Verlag – GΓΌtersloh, 2007
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Detail Picture

Moscow Book of Hours

Portrait of Luke the Evangelist

Luke is shown sitting before a window as he paints a portrait of the Virgin Mary. Fine strokes of gold ink highlight his cloak and its stylized fall of folds. Aside from being one of the Twelve Apostles and the first icon painter, Luke is credited with writing some of the most accurate and reliable works in the New Testament, making him both a historian and an artist. However, the masterful artist who created this scene has confused the Evangelist Symbols, showing a lion instead of a bull.

Moscow Book of Hours – Coron Verlag – F. 183 Nr. 446 – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Single Page

Moscow Book of Hours

September: The Wine Crush

This is an exemplary calendar page written in red, blue, and gold ink with a small miniature and a colorful frame of intertwining tendrils, fruits, and flowers. The important saint’s days and other holidays for the month of September each have a tiny gold leaf initial. A blue and gold β€œKL” initial in the upper left corner stands for Kalendarium.

This miniature shows a vintner in a red cap and blue shirt stomping grapes, a common activity in September. The interior space is portrayed with stone walls, a wooden roof, and a wonderful sense of perspective that draws the eyes to the serene blue sky outside. Gold leaf is masterfully applied to the scene, forming the frame while also highlighting the wine barrels and roof.

Moscow Book of Hours – Coron Verlag – F. 183 Nr. 446 – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Moskauer Stundenbuch

Coron Verlag – GΓΌtersloh, 2007

Publisher: Coron Verlag – GΓΌtersloh, 2007
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Binding: Brown leather binding with rich gold ornament and seven raised spines, gilt edges Noble leather book case with gold applications
Commentary: 1 volume (88 pages) by Ekaterina Zolotova and Gisela Hack-Molitor
Languages: German
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.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)
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