Officium Beatae Virginis

Officium Beatae Virginis

France — 15th century – 16th century

Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, painted by Jean Bourdichon: an exhilarating example of the French golden age of illumination

  1. Jean Bourdichon (1457/59–1521), who apprenticed with Jean Fouquet (1420–81), created this splendid book of hours

  2. He worked at the behest of Louis IX (1423–83), Charles VIII (1470–98), Louis XII (1462–1515), and Francis I (1494–1547)

  3. The manuscript belonged to Pope Pius VII (1742–1823) and is one of the finest specimens of a book of hours dedicated to the Virgin Mary

Officium Beatae Virginis

Price Category: €€€ (3,000€ - 7,000€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!
  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Officium Beatae Virginis

A fine specimen of the golden age of French illumination: the Officium Beatae Virginis from the hand of the great master Jean Bourdichon (1457/59–1521). Bourdichon was one of the leading artists of his day and favorite of the French royal court, completing commissions for high ranking officials and members of the royal family, including four French kings. In this splendid book of hours from around the turn of the 16th century, the Little Office of Our Lady, a cycle of psalms, hymns, scripture, and other readings forming a liturgical devotion to the Virgin Mary, takes center stage. The text is adorned with the detailed miniatures and lavish frames one would expect from one of the greatest representatives of medieval art. Such is the quality of the adornment that it was the personal possession of Pope Pius VII (1742–1823) before making its way to Cava Abbey in southern Italy, where it resides today.

Officium Beatae Virginis

The book of hours, a prayer book consisting of the prayers to be recited at predetermined hours throughout the day and night, was the most popular book genre of the Late Middle Ages and more of these codices have survived to the present than any other. This French book of hours, the Officium Beatae Virginis emerged around the turn of the 16th century, when French illumination was enjoying a golden age. It originated from one of the greatest representatives of that artistic epoch, Jean Bourdichon (1457/59–1521), who learned his trade as an apprentice to Jean Fouquet (1420–81), the preeminent French painter of the 15th century. Both were from Tours and both were favored artists at the French royal court, completing commissions at the behest of high court officials and members of the royal family. Bourdichon enjoyed a long and productive career, creating works of art for kings Louis IX (1423–83), Charles VIII (1470–98), Louis XII (1462–1515), and Francis I (1494–1547). This splendid manuscript features masterful miniatures set in wide, richly embellished frames rendered in an incredible color palette and represents one of the finest specimens of a book of hours dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Hours of the Virgin

Also known as the Little Office of Our Lady, it is a cycle of psalms, hymns, scripture, and other readings forming a liturgical devotion to the Virgin Mary. It originated around the mid–8th century and serves as a supplement to the Divine Office, also known as the Liturgy of the Hours, which consists of the official prayers “marking the hours of each day and sanctifying the day with prayer”. Already common by the end of the first millennium, multiple versions emerged in the years to follow. These prayers were often lavishly decorated and presented in a book of hours like the one here at hand and were usually created for the personal use of wealthy laymen. The Hours of the Virgin often appear alongside the Divine Office, but take center stage in the manuscript at hand.

Journey to Cava Abbey

La Trinità della Cava is a Benedictine abbey located in a gorge in the province of Salerno, Italy founded by St. Alferius (930–1050) in the year 1011. However, the abbey’s roots go back even deeper, both historically and literally because hermits had been living in the caves of the area since the 980’s. The abbey’s buildings were updated at the end of the 18th century and continue to exist in their sublime baroque style today. Our Officium Beatae Virginis is counted among the most prized possessions of La Trinità della Cava, and has called the abbey home since the 19th century. The whereabouts of the manuscript during the first few centuries of its existence remain unknown, but between 1840 and 1844, the codex was acquired by a certain Abbot Marincola for the private library of Pope Pius VII (1742–1823). The coveted codex was thereafter transferred to the possession of the abbey where it is housed as a special gem of their collections today.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Officium Beatae Virginis - Cod. Cavense 47
Codex Cavense 47
Origin
France
Date
15th century – 16th century
Language
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Pope Pius VII

Available facsimile editions:
Officium Beatae Virginis – Cod. Cavense 47 – Biblioteca Statale del Monumento Nazionale della Badia (Cava de' Tirreni, Italy)
Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato – Rome, 2003
Limited Edition: 500 copies
Detail Picture

Officium Beatae Virginis

January

From the lowliest peasant to the mightiest warlord, there was not much to do in the dead of winter during the Middle Ages except for eat, drink, and wait for the coming of spring. As a result, this labor of the month for January usually shows no labor but rather a richly dressed nobleman sitting in front of a fire with a cup of wine in his hand and a plate of food before him. On the other side of a golden column, a naked youth pouring out a jug of water represents the zodiac symbol Aquarius.

Officium Beatae Virginis - Cod. Cavense 47
Single Page

Officium Beatae Virginis

Flight to Egypt

After the visit of the Three Magi, Joseph receives a divine warning regarding King Herod. “Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, ‘Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.’” (Matt. 2:13)

Mary and Joseph walk alongside the donkey carrying the baby Jesus and all three members of the Holy Family are adorned with halos. The fall of folds of Mary’s dress is highlighted with delicate strokes of gold ink. The splendid floral frame of the manuscript depicts two monkeys, one on the right riding on the back of a pig and another at the bottom swinging a small dragon by its tail.

Officium Beatae Virginis - Cod. Cavense 47
Facsimile Editions

#1 Officium Beatae Virginis - Cod. Cavense 47

Officium Beatae Virginis – Cod. Cavense 47 – Biblioteca Statale del Monumento Nazionale della Badia (Cava de' Tirreni, Italy)
Officium Beatae Virginis – Cod. Cavense 47 – Biblioteca Statale del Monumento Nazionale della Badia (Cava de' Tirreni, Italy) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato – Rome, 2003
Limited Edition: 500 copies
Commentary: 1 volume by Silvia Maddalo
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: €€€ (3,000€ - 7,000€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!
You might also be interested in:
King Henry's Prayer Book
King Henry's Prayer Book
London (United Kindgom) – ca. 1540–1541

Furnished with his handwritten notes: the magnificent prayer book of King Henry VIII of England with wonderful trompe-l'oeil miniatures

Experience More
Great Hours of Anne of Brittany
Great Hours of Anne of Brittany
Tours (France) – 1503–1508

One of the most beautiful books of hours in the history of illumination and at the same time a herbolarium: miniatures and paintings created by the great Jean Bourdichon for the French Queen

Experience More
Blog articles worth reading
Filter selection
Publisher