Prayer Book of Poitiers

Prayer Book of Poitiers – AyN Ediciones – Ms. L.A. 135 – Museu Calouste Gulbenkian (Lisbon, Portugal)

Loire region: Angers, Tours and Poitiers (France) — 1450–1465

The showpiece of an oil magnate’s collection: one of the most richly furnished manuscripts of the Late Middle Ages with 1,000+ motifs

  1. A diverse image program makes this French manuscript one of the most beautiful surviving prayer books

  2. Furnished with 850+ pictorial motifs, it was made by the most talented 15th century French illuminators

  3. Named after Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian (1896–1955), a British oil magnate, art collector, and founder of Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon

Prayer Book of Poitiers

  1. Description
  2. Single Page
  3. Facsimile Editions (1)
Prayer Book of Poitiers

The Prayer Book of Poitiers is an outstanding masterpiece from the genre of private pray and devotional books. The handwritten, masterfully illuminated codex originates from France sometime between 1450 and 1460, and was produced by some of the most talented illuminators of this artistic epoch. With its diversified image program and its representational variations, the work is one of the most beautiful picture books known to the modern world from the history of medieval literature.

Prayer Book of Poitiers

The so-called Prayer Book of Poitiers is a magnificent illuminated manuscript drafted for private devotion, which is furnished with over 850 pictorial motifs. The masterpiece was made by a group of the most talented 15th century French illuminators. No other medieval book of hours in existence has such a wealth of pictorial depictions. The unbelievably diverse image program of the work was reproduced in various forms of illustrations. The manuscript contains large-format miniatures that fill a full page, as well as smaller picture sequences and charming, playful bordure adornments on the page margins.

A Gem from a Breathtaking Book Collection

Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian (1869–1955) was a wealthy British engineer, oil man, businessman, financial expert, and art collector of Armenian origin. He is considered to be a pioneer of oil exploration in the Near East as well as the founder of the Lisbon-based endowment Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, which opened the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian in 1969. Gulbenkian was a great lover of the visual arts. Thanks to his great fortune, he was able to assemble an inestimable collection of paintings, sculptures, and precious masterpieces. During the turmoil of the Second World War, Gulbenkian brought his astounding collection of art and books to the safety of neutral Portugal, where he himself remained for most of the rest of his life. Here he committed himself to his collection and the establishment of a foundation that is administered by his grandson today. The Prayer Book of Poitiersis one of the most beautiful and magnificent masterpieces from the splendid Gulbenkian Library.

French Illumination

A group of artists participated in the production of the book of hours from the Gulbenkian collection, whose members are only known today by their names of convenience. Rather than belonging to obviously disparate styles, all of the artists belonged to the same stylistic epoch in the history of 15th century French illumination. The specific characteristics of their miniature art is identified with the term “Jouvenel style.” The book of hours originated from the entourage of an outstanding artist, who was given the title of “Master of the Adelaide of Savoy” by a daughter of Louis XIV. This artist is also known by a second pseudonym as the “Master of Poitiers”. He gained this name of convenience because of a missal that was made by him in Poitiers, which contains some of the most beautiful miniature depictions by the great artist. In addition to the primary master of the Prayer Book of Poitiers, “Walters 222”, the so-called Master of the Madrid Hours and a successor of Jean Fouqets from the milieu of the Yale Missal and the Vienna Mamerot were also involved. As a result, this is an artist who was originally a staff member in the workshop of the primary master, but was also educated for a long time by the famous French master Jean Fouquet.

Visual Adornment in All Forms and Colors

The rich colors and gilded illuminations of the masterful work makes the Prayer Book of Poitiers a truly outstanding codex of this type. The unbelievably diverse image program not only includes the themes typical for a book of hours such as the Marian Cycle, the Penitential Psalms, and the Office of the Dead. Furthermore, the work contains a thrilling Passion Cycle and impressive pictures for the intercessions of the saints. This pictorial wealth puts forth numerous small, playful depictions in the bordures: all pages of text are adorned with three miniatures in the margins, which move between the stories of the Old Testament with daring, grotesque fantasy paintings. In some pictures, particularly in the crucifixion scene, the influence of the famous Italian painter of the early Renaissance, Fra Angelico, is clearly recognizable.


Alternative Titles
Libro de Horas Gulbenkian
Stundenbuch aus Poitiers
Size / Format
364 pages / 25.2 × 17.0 cm
24 calendar pictures, 18 full-page miniatures and 20 half-page miniatures, richly decorated with gold. Each text page with rich ornament and 3 small miniatures (more than 1,000 in total)
Liturgy of the Hours
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Calouste Gulbenkian (1869–1955)

Available facsimile editions:
Prayer Book of Poitiers – AyN Ediciones – Ms. L.A. 135 – Museu Calouste Gulbenkian (Lisbon, Portugal)
AyN Ediciones – Madrid, 2007
Limited Edition: 995 copies
Single Page

Prayer Book of Poitiers


Scenes from the Life of the Virgin, beginning with her birth, surround this gorgeous Annunciation scene, set within a wonderfully perspectival interior space, likely meant to symbolize the Temple of Jerusalem. A host of angels is assembled in the sky outside of the temple, where the archangel Gabriel descends dressed in a robe of red and pink.

Mary, dressed in her iconic robe of dark blue, is reading when the angel appears before her. Gabriel’s right hand is held up in a gesture of exclamation, the left hand holds a scepter with a banderole in praise of the soon-to-be Mother of God. Golden pen strokes and a dove coming through a window in the background indicates the divine presence impregnating the Virgin.

Prayer Book of Poitiers – AyN Ediciones – Ms. L.A. 135 – Museu Calouste Gulbenkian (Lisbon, Portugal)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Libro de Horas Gulbenkian

AyN Ediciones – Madrid, 2007

Publisher: AyN Ediciones – Madrid, 2007
Limited Edition: 995 copies
Binding: Blue velvet
Commentary: 1 volume by Eberhard König
Languages: Spanish or 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.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€€€
(7,000€ - 10,000€)
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