Art in the smallest of spaces: the prayer book of the French queen with its 132 biblical scenes

Prayer Book of Claude de France

Tours (France) — Around 1517

Prayer Book of Claude de France

Prayer Book of Claude de France

Tours (France) — Around 1517

  1. Famous for its 132 biblical scenes on 104 pages in the tiny format of only 6.9 x 4.9 cm

  2. Queen Claude's (1499-1524) escutcheon adorns the codex in several places, possibly a coronation present

  3. The book consists almost entirely of pictures, which mostly fill full-pages and sometimes double-pages

Gebetbuch der Claude de France

Prayer Book of Claude de France

Martyrdom of St. Mark

Mark the Evangelist was the author of one of the Gospels, founder of the Church of Alexandria, and his symbol – the winged lion – has been famously adopted by the city of Venice. In the year AD 68, the idolatrous citizens of Alexandria revolted against his attempts to Christianize them, dragging him through the city until he was dead. His relics remained there until they were stolen by two Venetian merchants in 828 and thereafter became the focal point of St. Mark’s Basilica.

Prayer Book of Claude de France

Alternative Titles:
  • Gebetbuch der Claude de France
  • Livre de prières de Claude de France
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

The Prayer Book of Claude de France is a codex rich with pictures in a small format of 49 x 69 millimeters. It originate from 1517 in Tours and was created by the personal master of Claude de France. The work was famous for its fine miniatures and decorative elements that show 132 biblical scenes on 104 pages. The private character of the work is evidenced by the application of the queen’s coat-of-arms and personal emblems.

Prayer Book of Claude de France

Around 1517, a small, enchanting picture book emerged at the court of the French King, that was famous due to its format and its unusual richness of colored pictorial decoration. This was the Prayer Book of Queen Claude de France, which was completed by her personal favorite painter. Named the Master of Claude de France after this work, he painted 132 scenes on 104 pages from the New Testament. The small format pictures are especially captivating because of the fine manner of painting and the depiction of the queen’s personal symbols. The pictures are inspired from the art of the painters of Italy, especially Leonardo de Vinci.

A Coronation Present for the Art Lover

Claude de France, daughter of Anne de Bretagne and Louis XII, came from a family that was known in medieval France as lovers and patrons of the fine arts. She grew up surrounded by valuable paintings and manuscripts. In 1514, she married the man who later became King Francois I, who was likewise known as a patron of the arts and who kept in touch with the Italian Renaissance man Leonardo da Vinci. At her coronation in 1517, Claude wished for a personal gift, a small prayer book that she could carry with her. Her favorite painter designed the work and employed the Queen’s personal coat-of-arms three times, which are highlighted with golden crowns on two of the depictions.

An Amazing Richness of Illustration in a Small Format

The Miniatures of the prayer book measure only 69 x 49 millimeters. In spite of this small format, the Master of Claude de France succeeds in reviving biblical scenes from the life of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, the apostles, and numerous other saints. The book consists almost entirely of pictures, which mostly fill whole pages and sometimes double pages as well. The textual part of the work is very limited. Sometimes the textual passages were broken up by incised pictorial scenes that depicted the portrayed events and made the gaily colored booklet even more lively.

A Famous Template and an Uncertain History

The history of the French payer book is no longer explicable today. The Viennese book dealer H.P. Kraus acquired the text after the Second World War and sold it at the end of the 1970’s to the New York art collector Alexandre P. Rosenburg. His widow bequeathed the work to the Pierpont Morgan Library 21 years later. The earlier stages of the prayer book are not known. What is known is that Claude’s husband Francois I was a great lover of Italian painting. He acquired works from Michelangelo, Titian, and Raffael as well as sending for his friend Leonardo da Vinci at his famous Renaissance court of Amboise. His popular depiction of the “Virgin of the Rocks” had a direct influence on the Master of Claude de France. He depicted the queen in her prayer book in a very similar fashion.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Gebetbuch der Claude de France
Livre de prières de Claude de France
Size / Format
104 pages / 6.9 x 4.9 cm
Date
Around 1517
Language
Illustrations
132 scenes on 104 pages
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Gebetbuch der Claude de France

Prayer Book of Claude de France

Death of St. Jerome

Despite the handheld size of the manuscript, the Master of Claude de France created a masterpiece of illumination for Queen Claude’s personal use. This scene depicts St. Jerome as he is given last rites shortly before his death on September 30th, 420 near Bethlehem, and is presented in an interior space with a Renaissance-style doorway.

Propped up on some hay, St. Jerome is thin and grey, naked to the waist and wrapped in a blanket with a faint halo around his head. Two monks kneel beside him, the bearded monk is about to give him the Eucharist as a young hooded monk holds a prayer book. Behind them, a group of dower monks pray among themselves as the man responsible for the Vulgate prepares to meet his maker.

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Prayer Book of Claude de France“

Gebetbuch der Claude de France
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
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Gebetbuch der Claude de France

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Luzern, 2009
Limited Edition
980 copies
Binding
Burgundy red velvet with golden clasps in the form of a fleur-de-lis
Commentary
1 volume by Roger S. Wieck and Cynthia J. Brown
Languages: English, German
Price Category: €€
Edition available
Price: Login here!
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