Prayer Book of Charles the Bold

Prayer Book of Charles the Bold

Flanders — 1469, ca. 1471 and ca. 1480–1490

With three portraits of the Burgundian Duke: a splendidly decorated masterpiece of Burgundian illumination made for one of the richest men of his time

  1. This principle work of Burgundian illumination originated in several stages in Flanders between 1469 and 1490

  2. Every page of the small book is incomparably elaborately adorned in splendid colors and lavish gold leaf

  3. Three portraits of the commissioner, Duke Charles of Burgundy (1433–77), are to be found in the book

Prayer Book of Charles the Bold

Price Category: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Prayer Book of Charles the Bold

The Prayer Book of Charles the Bold emerged in Flanders between 1469 and 1490 as the result of several stages of work. It is one of the principle works of Renaissance illumination and occupies a special position in Flemish book art. Every page of the small book is incomparably elaborately adorned in splendid colors and lavish gold leaf. The responsible illuminators, among them the court painter Lieven van Lathem and the Vienna Master of Maria of Burgundy, revolutionized European illumination with their tender natural depictions and their realistic people and faces.

Prayer Book of Charles the Bold

Among all of the gorgeous, precious manuscripts produced by Flemish book art, the Prayer Book of Charles the Bold occupies a key position. It is an absolute principle work of the Renaissance. On 318 vellum pages, the small codex contains 47 miniatures and over 360 embellished initials against a background of engraved gold. Embellished with exuberant gold adornment, the work was elucidated by Charles’ favorite illuminator, Lieven van Lathem and his famous calligrapher Nicolas Spierinc and was furnished with numerous initials adorned with floral or figurative depictions. Three portraits of the commissioner attest to the very personal relationship Charles had with his prayer book.

A Masterpiece for the Burgundian Court

Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, was a vibrant personality. He was simultaneously the last and the most famous duke from the house of Valois-Burgundy. The Burgundian Court became one of the most magnificent ruling seats in all of Europe during the reign of Charles. He was a passionate benefactor of the arts and has gone down in history as a lover of luxury and collector of great artistic treasures. Charles had numerous codices completed that were begun during the reign of his father Philipp the Good. As a patron, he was extremely demanding with respect to the works that were made for him. His inclination towards magnificence is reflected in his prayer book. Every page of the small book shows the splendor of Flemish illumination in an imaginative variety.

Flemish Book Art in its Utmost Perfection

During the time of the booklet’s creation, the Belgian region of Flanders near Paris was the creative center of illumination in Europe. The Belgian illuminators were able to successfully bring tender, natural observations such as unbelievably realistic facial features and gestures in representations of people to paper. With their innovative ideas and new artistic incentives, they inspired such great Dutch panel painters such as Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden, who were revolutionizing painting worldwide during the same period. Lieven van Lathem – court painter to Philipp the Good, his son Charles the Bold, and eventually Kaiser Maximillian as well – was one of the leading Flemish illuminators of that time. He was a valued member of the Illuminator’s Guild of Ghent and was later accepted into the famous St. Luke’s Guild in Antwerp. His atmospheric landscapes and made him a model for countless successive artists. He presented his talent in the small prayer book in a breath-taking manner. For the design of the precious work, he was supported by several additional masters, who exact identity cannot be proved with certainty. Yet one of them must have been the so-called Vienna Master of Maria of Burgundy. Researchers speculate that Alexander Benning, the father of the famous artist Simon Benning, hid behind this pseudonym. He is responsible for the design of the fine, animated figures and lively faces in the prayer book.

An Enchanting Story in Pictures

The Prayer Book of Charles the Bold contains 47 miniatures in an exuberantly colorful splendor and are embellished with gold. The pictures demonstrate the limitless imagination and narrative joy of their illuminators. There is imaginative bordure adornment on nearly every page of the work. Acanthus vines and other growing plants in lively, luminous colors with gold flowers, countless depictions of fantastical creatures, people, and animals all enliven the page margins. Alongside these enchanting depictions, three royal portraits of the commissioner, Charles, are to be found in the book. These portraits corroborate the personal nature of the prayer book. The text of the manuscript is also richly illuminated. The meticulously-written script was arranged through the 360 initials against at least partially tooled gold backgrounds.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Le livre de prières de Charles Téméraire
Gebetbuch Karls des Kühnen
Size / Format
318 pages / 12.4 × 9.2 cm
Origin
Belgium
Date
1469, ca. 1471 and ca. 1480–1490
Language
Illustrations
47 miniatures, more than 360 initials. Each page decorated.
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Prayer Book of Charles the Bold – Ms. 37 – Getty Museum (Los Angeles, USA)
Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 2007
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Detail Picture

Prayer Book of Charles the Bold

St. Hubertus

Hubertus was an 8th century Frankish nobleman who withdrew from court to find solace hunting in the woods after the death of his wife in childbirth. While pursuing a magnificent stag on Good Friday, the animal stopped and looked at him. Hubert then had a vision of a crucifix floating between its antlers and the deer spoke to him, calling him to a godly life. The deer is often used as a symbol of renewal in art because it sheds its antlers and is associated with Christ.

Gebetbuch Karls des Kühnen
Single Page

Prayer Book of Charles the Bold

Charles the Bold Presented by an Angel

Surrounded by an ornate frame filled with flowering tendrils, birds, banderoles, and an angel playing a lute, we find a miniature patron portrait of Duke Charles the Bold of Burgundy. He is kneeling before a codex, likely meant to represent his newly completed commission, in a scene that is typical in late medieval personal manuscripts.

This interior scene occurs within a cathedral, which is not portrayed in the contemporary Gothic style but in the older Romanesque with rounded arches and columns. Girt with a sword, the Duke’s legs are protected by plate armor, his brilliant blue tunic highlighted with pen strokes of gold ink. Standing behind Charles with a hand on his shoulder, the angel’s multicolored wings contrast with its pale tunic.

Gebetbuch Karls des Kühnen
Facsimile Editions

#1 Gebetbuch Karls des Kühnen

Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 2007
Prayer Book of Charles the Bold – Ms. 37 – Getty Museum (Los Angeles, USA)
Prayer Book of Charles the Bold – Ms. 37 – Getty Museum (Los Angeles, USA) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 2007
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Binding: The Fine Art Facsimile comes in a purple velvet binding, a faithful replica of the current original binding. It has two gilded clasps, four gilded metal corners on both front and back covers, and a decorative medallion. The bibliophile masterpiece is complete with gilt edges in a noble brush-applied, finely chiselled gold. It comes in a case of acrylic glass to protect and enhance the value of the volume.
Commentary: 1 volume (310 pages) by Antoine de Schryver and Thomas Kren
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.
Price Category: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!
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