Petites Heures of the Duke of Berry

Petites Heures of the Duke of Berry Facsimile Edition

Paris (France) — 1372–1390

A magnificent masterpiece by Jacquemart de Hesdin, the Limbourg Brothers, and other exceptional artists for one of the greatest bibliophiles of the Middle Ages: the personal book of hours of the famous Duke Jean de Berry

  1. Six great illuminators of the 14th century produced one of the greatest specimens of medieval book art

  2. They are namely Jean Le Noir, Jacquemart de Hesdin, the Pseudo-Jacquemart, and the Limbourg brothers

  3. Frequent depictions of the patron, Duke Jean de Berry (1340–1416), testify to the personal character of the masterpiece

Petites Heures of the Duke of Berry

  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Petites Heures of the Duke of Berry

The book of hours titled Les Petites Heures of the Duke of Berry was made between 1372 and 1390 by no less than 5 of the most important European book artists of the late–14th century. The work represents an absolute highlight of the breath-taking book collection of the dazzling prince and art collector Jean Valois, Duke of Berry. Every page of the book was opulently embellished with unbelievable diligence by the artists. It assuredly saw daily use by the Duke as a private prayer and devotional book.

Les Petites Heures of the Duke of Berry

Between the years 1372 and 1390, five of the most important illuminators of the 14th century collectively produced a manuscript that researchers consider to be one of the greatest specimens of medieval book art in the world. The Petite Heures was made as a private payer book for the art-lover Prince Jean de Valois, Duke of Berry. The work contains an opulent series of paintings in splendid colors and is furnished with gold and silver in excess. Nearly all of the 580 pages comprising the work are richly illuminated. Large-format miniatures and an enchantingly-designed calendar are accompanied by eccentrically ornamented initials, marginal decorations, and bordures.

At the Behest of a Passionate Book Lover

Jean de Valois (1340–1416), Duke of Berry, is known today as one of the greatest collectors and patrons of exceptional artistic treasures and precious illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages. The duke owned one of the most luxurious libraries in all of France. He continuously expanded his expensive collection of books during his reign, patronized the most gifted illuminators of his time, and acquired some of the most precious manuscripts that ever existed. Every work of the library consisting of over 300 manuscripts that he built up by the end of his life was of exceptional quality. Alongside what is probably his most famous book, the Très Riches Heures, the Petite Heures is an absolute masterpiece and the highlight of the ducal book treasury.

The Ultimate Team of Illuminators

The commission for the Petite Heures was originally given to the artist Jean le Noir, who was by far the best illuminator in France from 1340 to 1380. He adorned the book of hours in a traditional manner with a Passion cycle, an opening image of the Penitential Psalms, and a scene from the Office of John the Baptist that were typical for this genre. After his death in 1380, work on the book ceased for five years until it was finally resumed by no less than the famous Jacquemart de Hesdin, the “Master of the Trinity” as well as the so-called “pseudo-Jacquemart. Work on the masterpiece was completed ca. 1390. Around 20 years later, the dazzling patron Jean de Berry appended it with a miniature from his favorite artists, the world-famous Limbourg Brothers. Hardly any other work of medieval book art was furnished by a comparable collection of artists.

Accoutrement in the Highest Perfection

The small book of hours contains a gallery of 119 stunningly beautiful miniatures, which set the prayer texts of the manuscript in ornate scenes. There are important biblical scenes in which the artists paid special attention to the depiction of the saints who were particularly venerated by the Duke of Berry. Every page of the book of hours was lovingly and harmoniously furnished down to the smallest detail. Frequent depictions of the patron and his personal collection in bright colors and ennobled with gold and silver testify to the personal character of the masterly manuscript. It is conceivable that the prince always carried it on his numerous journeys and used it for quiet prayer.


Alternative Titles
Petites Heures - Das Stundenbuch des Herzogs von Berry
Les Petites Heures du Duc de Berry
Size / Format
580 pages / 21.2 × 14.5 cm
Textura Formata
119 richly gold and silver leaf miniature pages as well as over 300 lavishly decorated pages, calendar illustrations, numerous initial figures, marginal decorations, and borders
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Robinet d'Estampes (1360–1420) and his wife Jacquette
Duke Charles III de Lorraine (1543–1608)
Madame de Chasnay
François Roger de Gaignières (1642–1715)
Louis-Jean Gaignat (d. 1784)
Louis César de La Baume Le Blanc, Duke of La Vallière (1708–80)

Available facsimile editions:
Petites Heures of the Duke of Berry – – Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris, France) Facsimile Edition
Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 1989
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Detail Picture

Petites Heures of the Duke of Berry

The Entombment of Christ

A popular subject in Western art since the 10th century, this scene of the burial of Jesus is tremendously dramatic due to the gestures and expressions of the figures who have crowded together around the Savior. This is further enhanced by the stark contrast of dark and bright colors along with subtle yet masterful shading. Women make up the majority of the mourners, the Virgin Mary gives her son a last kiss while another cradles his arm; only one man has a halo, likely Joseph of Arimathea.

Les Petites Heures - Das Stundenbuch des Herzogs von Berry
Single Page

Petites Heures of the Duke of Berry

Jesus' Arrest in the Garden at Gethsemane

The ominous red background of this archetypal scene is in stark contrast to the delicate tendrils of red, blue, and gold surrounding the wonderfully patterned frame. We see Jesus in the moment of his betrayal when the devious-looking Judas kisses him on the cheek to identify him. The scene is crowded as though a brawl is about to break out between the two groups pressing together.

Although Jesus and his followers wear classical robes, the soldiers have the arms and armor of late–14th century mercenaries, which are depicted in detail. One of the arresting officers is kneeling to the ground with an agonized look and holding his ear, which has been cut off by one of Jesus’ disciples who now puts his sword away after having been rebuked.

Les Petites Heures - Das Stundenbuch des Herzogs von Berry
Facsimile Editions

#1 Les Petites Heures - Das Stundenbuch des Herzogs von Berry

Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 1989

Publisher: Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 1989
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Binding: The magnificent black full leather binding, stitched on five real frets, is embossed in gold. The trimmed double leaves are gilt-edged on three sides. The headband is sewn by hand. The facsimile and the commentary volume are available in a protective case made of acrylic glass.
Commentary: 1 volume (460 pages) by François Avril, Louisa Dunlop, and Brundson Yapp
Languages: French, 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.
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