Prayer Book of Michelino da Besozzo

Prayer Book of Michelino da Besozzo Facsimile Edition

Italy — Ca. 1430

A special portrait of the Evangelist with a history of reception: Da Besozzo's first depiction of St. Luke as a painter making his final brushstroke on a painting of Madonna and Child

  1. Michelino da Besozzo (ca. 1370 – ca. 1455) was widely praised for his work as an illuminator

  2. 22 full-page miniatures, 1 large historiated initial, and 46 decorative initials adorn the codex

  3. Both text and miniature pages in the incomplete masterpiece are framed by delicate floral borders

Prayer Book of Michelino da Besozzo

  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Prayer Book of Michelino da Besozzo

Named after the artist who created it, the Prayer Book of Michelino da Besozzo is a richly illuminated manuscript originating from Milan ca. 1430. Its contents consist of 47 prayers arranged liturgically and dedicated to various feasts taken from the Temporal and Sanctoral cycles of the church year and is adorned by 22 full-page miniatures, 1 large historiated initial, and 46 illuminated initials. Both the miniatures and 47 of the text pages are framed by delicate floral borders, but it is believed that at least half of the original miniatures and parts of the texts are missing. Michelino was highly esteemed by his contemporaries, called “the supreme painter” and “the most excellent of all painters in the world”. This small prayer book, with its generous use of gold leaf and rich color palette, is considered today to be his masterpiece. One of the highlights of the manuscript is the Evangelist portrait of St. Luke, which is one of the first Western depictions to show the patron saint of painters and painters' guilds putting the finishing touches on a panel painting of the Madonna and Child, an image that became increasingly popular in the course of the next century.

Prayer Book of Michelino da Besozzo

Michelino Molinari da Besozzo (ca. 1370 – ca. 1455) was one of the leading Italian artists of his period and created magnificent manuscripts for inter alia the Visconti, rulers of Milan. Contemporary artists described him as the “supreme painter” and the humanist Umberto Decembrio (d. 1427) called him the “most excellent of all the painters in the world”. Besozzo followed the traditions of the Lombard school and a linear form of the International Gothic style while maintaining the style of the Trecento. Both abstract and naturalistic, his paintings rejected the classicizing style of the Renaissance. Unfortunately, few of his works have survived to the present, but this prayer book is a true masterpiece and a wonderful testament to Besozzo’s artistic prowess.

A Fragmentary Masterpiece

It is believed that at least half of the original miniatures and many of the text pages are missing from this manuscript. Nonetheless, the remaining 22 full-page miniatures with floral borders, 1 historiated initial, 47 text pages with borders, and 46 illuminated initials. The text consists of 47 prayers arranged according to the liturgical year and are dedicated to various feasts taken from the Temporal and Sanctoral cycles of the church year. Most of the miniatures have backgrounds with splendid patterns, some are solid blue or gold, and others are presented within elegant but simple architectures. The uniform beauty of the image program is matched by the neatness of the text, which was written in brown ink by a single highly skilled scribe.

St. Luke Painting the Virgin

The most famous image from this prayer book, created in Milan ca. 1430, is a style-forming full-page miniature depicting of St. Luke putting the final touches on a painting of the Madonna and Child. It was one of the earliest representations of this scene in the West and is certainly one of the finest and most influential – the subject became ubiquitous among artists by the end of the century and continued to be popular throughout the Renaissance. This famous miniature shows St. Luke, the patron saint of painters and painters’ guilds, wearing flowing blue-green robes with a stylish fall of folds that are trimmed in cloth of gold. Different shades of brown give his hair a natural, textured appearance. He is standing in front of a splendidly patterned background of pink flowers and gold as he holds a panel painting resembling an altarpiece. An ox with a halo, his Evangelist Symbol, lies on the floor at his feet and watches Luke, who is standing between a standing desk with a slanted surface for writing and a wooden bench with a book resting on it.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Gebetbuch von Michelino da Besozzo
Bodmer Hours
Offiziolo Bodmer
Hours of Michelino da Besozzo
Stundenbuch von Michelino da Besozzo
Origin
Italy
Date
Ca. 1430
Language
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Prayer Book of Michelino da Besozzo – MS M.944 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA) Facsimile Edition
G. Braziller – New York, 1981
Facsimile Editions

#1 The Prayer book of Michelino da Besozzo

G. Braziller – New York, 1981

Publisher: G. Braziller – New York, 1981
Commentary: 1 volume by Colin T. Eisler and Patricia Corbett
Language: English
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: € (under 1,000€)
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