Often used, even to learn Flemish: the personal prayer book of the "Last Knight"

Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I

Bruges (Belgium) — After 1486

Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I

Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I

Bruges (Belgium) — After 1486

  1. This is a superb example of Flemish illumination fit for the powerful art-lover

  2. It shows numerous marks from use, thus making us assume that it was long used by Maximilian I (1459–1519)

  3. Prayers in Flemish were added to it at a later date, indicating that Maximilian was learning the language

Das ältere Gebetbuch Kaiser Maximilians

Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I

Mass of Saint Gregory

According to legend, when Pope Gregory I was performing mass a woman doubted that the Eucharist was indeed Christ. After praying for a sign, a vision of Christ with the wounds of the Passion appeared on the altar and the legend became a popular subject for illuminated manuscripts and altarpieces alike. Christ appears here above the altar as the Man of Sorrows surrounded by faces and images from his passion, such as the column where he was flagellated, in the blue background.

Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I

Alternative Titles:
  • Das ältere Gebetbuch Kaiser Maximilians
  • Älteres Gebetbuch Kaiser Maximilians
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

The Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I is one of many manuscripts commissioned by the Hapsburg Emperor, one of the greatest art patrons of medieval Europe who was also a great military commander, earning him the epithet the "Last Knight". This manuscript is a superb example of Flemish Illumination, which was flourishing at the time, and boasts the kind of masterful miniatures and figural frames one would expect therefrom. It shows numerous marks from use, thus making us assume that Maximilian used it over a long period of time as a prayer book for private devotion. Made for him while he was in the Low Countries and participating in the conflicts occurring there, it had prayers in Flemish added to it at a later date, indicating that Maximilian was interested in broadening his linguistic repertoire.

Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I

Maximilian I is the only royal personality in European history we know of who has owned books during all periods of his life, books which have come down to us and raise the interest of art historians, not only for their decoration but also for their contents. This makes them important documents of the life and personality of the great sovereign. The Older Prayer Book of Maximilian holds a special position in that it represents a unique document about the Emperor’s religious life. The imaginative decoration of the prayer book is an excellent example of the outstanding art of Flemish miniaturists. The five colorful full-page miniatures are set in imaginative frames, their facing text pages being equally ornate with sumptuously decorated frames. The same hand that created the full-page miniatures also made the three initials on golden ground, which are formed from delicate vines and filled with elaborate miniatures. The remaining pages are decorated throughout with simple initials. The Older Prayer Book was made during Maximilian’s stay in the Low Countries, where he was partially involved in heavy fighting over territorial issues. At this time he commissioned a prayer book whose textual design he greatly influenced himself. It shows numerous marks from use, thus making us assume that Maximilian used it over a long period of time as a prayer book for private devotion.

A Solemn Testimony to Flemish Book Illumination

The artistic furnishings of the Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I originate from the hand of an anonymous Flemish master who was active in a workshop in Bruges. The miniatures, which immediately attract the attention of the beholder, all follow one style and show the artistic perfection of the master. Their large decorated frames and the wide variety of inserted animals and flowers display imagination and playfulness. The most beautiful and impressive miniature depicts the young Maximilian with crown and long, golden hair (fol. 61v). He kneels in prayer in front of Saint Sebastian, patron of the archers, who is shown as a knight in courtly armor. The coat of arms on the tree shows the royal eagle of Germany, thus alluding to Maximilian’s coronation as King of Germany in February of 1486.

The Intimate Devotional Book of a Sovereign

The sequence of texts does not correspond to the normal schedule of a book of hours of the 15th century, as the essential Offices, those of the Virgin and the Dead, are missing. The only traditional division in the Prayer Book is the calendar containing a number of fixed feast days. The subsequent prayers encompass a mixture of texts extracted from different sources, regardless of any liturgical or thematic system. In addition to general prayers, the book contains prayers of a very personal nature. Maximilian undoubtedly had a decisive influence on the selection of texts for his hand-written Older Prayer Book. Rather than a representative work devised for the glory of the sovereign and his dynasty, it was a personal, intimate book of devotion which accompanied the emperor over many years.

A Masterpiece of Calligraphy

The text was largely written by one hand, in a clearly shaped, regular Burgundian bastarda. The prayers added at a later stage go back to more than one hand and were written in different calligraphic scripts. The language is Latin which was comprehensible to any educated person of the time, although Maximilian did not necessarily have a great knowledge of Latin himself. A particular feature are the prayers in Flemish, added at a later stage. Maximilian possibly favored their addition in order to educate himself, to pray in a language with which he was not yet familiar. He must have learned Flemish bit by bit in the Netherlands, as the language generally spoken at the court of Burgundy was French, of course. The facsimile edition comes in a set with a comprehensive scholarly commentary by Wolfgang Hilger. It provides an introduction to the manuscript and its history, a codicological and textual analysis, and describes the decorative apparatus of the book.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Das ältere Gebetbuch Kaiser Maximilians
Älteres Gebetbuch Kaiser Maximilians
Size / Format
182 pages / 19.0 × 13.3 cm
Date
After 1486
Language
Illustrations
3 initial letters. 5 pages with ornamental frames and 5 full-page pictures, the other pages without ornaments or with simple initials. The 13 illuminated pages in full colour
Artist / School
Das ältere Gebetbuch Kaiser Maximilians

Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I

Madonna and Child

Rather than having individual halos, Mother and child have a subtly-drawn, overlapping auras and are shown embracing one another. They appear as though standing at the mouth of a cave with an inscription and a cloudy blue sky above them, but the background is deemphasized to draw attention to the detail of their expressions and Mary’s garment fall of folds.

The frame of the miniature is perhaps an even greater testament to the skill of the anonymous Flemish artist responsible for the splendid illumination of the manuscript. A large dragonfly with translucent wings and a moth can be seen among the flowers and cut, dried leaves that have turned a golden brown. Shadows make it appear as though all of these things were resting on the frame.

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I“

Das ältere Gebetbuch Kaiser Maximilians
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Older Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I – Cod. Vindob. 1907 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
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Das ältere Gebetbuch Kaiser Maximilians

1 volume: This facsimile is not complete.
Publisher
Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Graz, 1973
Binding
Leather
Commentary
1 volume (58 pages) by W. Hilger
Language: German
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.
Price Category: € (under 1,000€)
Edition available
Please ask for a quote!
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