A gorgeous masterpiece of 15th century Flemish illumination created for a member of the Burgundian court of Duke Philip the Good

Officium Beatae Mariae Virginis of Guillebert de Metz

Netherlands — 15th Century

Officium Beatae Mariae Virginis of Guillebert de Metz

Officium Beatae Mariae Virginis of Guillebert de Metz

Netherlands — 15th Century

  1. 23 gorgeous miniatures illustrate the lives of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and Saint Barbara

  2. Detailed historiated initials and bordures with broad acanthus leaves and countless figures adorn the text

  3. The unity and completeness of the gorgeous imagery is what makes this manuscript a true masterpiece

Officium Beatae Mariae Virginis of Guillebert de Metz

Alternative Titles:
  • Officium Beatae Virginis et mortuorum
  • Offiziolo di Guillebert di Metz
  • Officium Beatae Mariae Virginis von Guillebert de Metz
Offiziolo di Guillebert di Metz
Imageof
  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

The rich and sophisticated court of the Dukes of Burgundy patronized countless illuminated manuscripts, which were mostly created in the Low Countries. These manuscripts are counted among the finest works of medieval book art. One of the masterpieces produced during the first half of the 15th century is the Officium Beatae Mariae Virginis of Guillebert de Metz, likely created for the wife of one of Duke Philip the Good’s courtiers. The standard liturgical text is appended with a Vita of Saint Barbara and a calendar with saints from the Diocese of Utrecht. It is adorned by 23 miniatures, numerous historiated initials, and gorgeous floral bordures filled with human, animal, and hybrid figures. The richly illuminated manuscript was designed with a complete image program that is consistent throughout, making it a true masterpiece of the Gothic style.

Officium Beatae Mariae Virginis of Guillebert de Mets

During the Late Middle Ages, the rich, powerful, and sophisticated Dukes of Burgundy created the most learned and splendid court in Europe. The Burgundian aristocracy and the growing Burgher class – the medieval bourgeoisie – patronized countless works of art including panel paintings and illuminated manuscripts. This resulted in the formation of a whole bookmaking industry in the Low Countries, which were part of their lands. One of the finest examples of this explosion of creativity is the Officium Beatae Mariae Virginis of Guillebert de Mets, which was created sometime before 1450.

A Gothic Masterpiece

In the manuscript, 23 gorgeous miniatures depict episodes from the life of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and Saint Barbara, but the calendar section is filled with saints from the diocese of Utrecht. Colorful acanthus leaf bordures highlighted with gold leaf fill the margins of both the miniatures and the text pages, which feature elaborate historiated initials. Countless human and animal figures, as well as grotesques, fill the leafy frames. The work’s style and decorative program are both gorgeous and consistent, which is what makes it a true masterpiece. It is attributed to the Master of Guillebert de Mets, also known as the Master of the Silver Skies for his frequent use of silver leaf.

The Master(s) of Guillebert de Mets

There is some debate as to whether there was more than one Master of Guillebert de Mets. Rather than being an alternate name, the Master of the Silver Skies is likely a second master. They appear to have been active in the Flemish city of Ghent between 1415 and 1450 and their work displays typical stylistic elements such as the floral borders. Various elements of the French Gothic style can be seen in the composition of the miniatures, indicating that at least one of the masters had been trained in Paris. Furthermore, they were strongly influenced by the Boucicaut Master and the Bedford Master. Whether it was an individual or a group, this name of convenience is a reference to evidence of frequent collaboration with the Flemish scribe and copyist Guillebert de Mets, who was active around the same time. This evidence of an ongoing working relationship speaks to just how advanced and professional the manuscript trade in the modern Netherlands had become by the 15th century.

Journey of the Manuscript

It is believed that the manuscript was patronized by a member of the court of Duke Philip the Good (1396-1467) who was a member of the Order of the Golden Fleece as a gift for his wife, who may have been named Barbara judging by the patron saint chosen for the text. After passing through the hands of various nobles through the centuries, codex was donated by the Count of Brescia Durante Duranti (1718-1780), poet imitator of Parini, “to the valiant Father Abate Trombelli”. He in turn donated the manuscript to the library of the Convent del SS. Salvatore, which cataloged the work in the 18th century with the shelf mark 780. In the opinion of Frati, the codex was donated to Duranti by the Duke of Savoy and King of Sardinia Charles Emmanuel III (1701-73) in 1755 to thank him for the dedication of his rhymes. In either case, the manuscript remained in the library until it was taken during Napoleon’s invasion in 1796 before returning to Italy in 1828. It was then donated by the canons to what was the Pontifical Library at the time before eventually making its way to the University of Bologna Library, where it is stored today under the shelf mark ms. 1138.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Officium Beatae Virginis et mortuorum
Offiziolo di Guillebert di Metz
Officium Beatae Mariae Virginis von Guillebert de Metz
Size / Format
300 pages / 18.5 × 13.0 cm
Date
15th Century
Style
Language
Script
Gothic Textualis
Illustrations
23 large miniatures, historiated initials; borders and marginalia
Content
Liturgy of the Hours, Vita of Saint Barbara and various saints from the diocese of Utrecht
Artist / School
Previous Owners

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Officium Beatae Mariae Virginis of Guillebert de Metz“

Offiziolo di Guillebert di Metz
Imageof

Offiziolo di Guillebert di Metz

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Imago – Castel Guelfo, 2020
Commentary
1 volume
Language: Italian
More Information
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.
  1. Matching Works
  2. Matching Background Articles

Matching Works

Officium Beatae Mariae Virginis of Maria Antonietta of Savoia

Officium Beatae Mariae Virginis of Maria Antonietta of Savoia

The Flemish school of Willem Vrelant in a splendid Italian manuscript for the daughter of King Philip V

Experience More
Officium beatae mariae virginis of Cardinal Ippolito d'Este

Officium beatae mariae virginis of Cardinal Ippolito d'Este

A cardinal's gift to Anna Sforza: 146 miniatures from the Milanese school in a lovely prayer book

Experience More

Matching Background Articles

Publisher