Prayerbook of Philip II

Prayerbook of Philip II Facsimile Edition

Royal Monastery of El Escorial, San Lorenzo of El Escorial (Spain) — 1568–1580

With format-filling, magnificent miniatures inspired by the Italian Renaissance master Giulio Clovio: a masterpiece of 16th century Spanish illumination created for King Philip II

  1. Giulio Clovio (1498–1578) is regarded as the greatest illuminator of the Italian High Renaissance

  2. The Spanish monks Andrés de León and Julián de Fuente el Saz modelled their miniatures on Clovio's work

  3. King Philip II of Spain (1527–1598) commissioned the prayerbook for his own personal use

Prayerbook of Philip II

Ms. Vitrina 9 Real Biblioteca del Monasterio (San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain)
Price Category: €€€ (3,000€ - 7,000€)
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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Prayerbook of Philip II

The prayerbook belonging to King Philip II impresses with wonderful, stylish miniatures that are perfectly executed artistically as well as the rich, creative design of the pages of text and imagery. Philip II, the significant Spanish King and builder of the royal monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, commissioned the private devotional book. Two Spanish monks – Andrés de León and Julián de Fuente el Saz – oriented themselves on the style of Italian role models like Giulio Clovio in creating this masterpiece. The religious depictions and ornamental bordures unite the most luminous colors and noble gold with fantastic miniature painting in the Prayerbook of Philip II, making it one of the gems of the monastic library of El Escorial.

Prayerbook of Philip II

During the 16th century, the last and most marvelous flowering of manuscript culture occurred at the same time that book printing became ubiquitous across Europe. The highest-ranking members of the European nobility still favored handmade codices over printed ones and some true masterpieces of illumination were produced during this time as a result. Created at the behest of the famous Spanish king and patron of the arts, the Prayerbook of Philip II was created by a team of Spanish artists who were inspired by the refinement and creativity of Giulio Clovio (1498–1578). The structure of the book is divided into three sections: first, a religious calendar with columns for the Numerus Aureus, Sunday Letter, Roman Calendar, and a saints’ calendar; second, a Sequuntur Capitula et orationes posite in psalterio followed by the liturgical prayers to be said in the royal chapel; third, a magnificent miniature of the Holy Burial followed by prayers for the deceased relatives of King Philip II.

The Royal Patron

In the years 1563-1585, King Philip II (1527-1598) had a royal monastery of incredible proportions built on a hill amidst a wide, barren landscape not far from Madrid. To this day, the monastery complex of San Lorenzo de El Escorial belongs among the most impressive edifices of 16th century Spain. The significant library with the great hall under a barrel vault decorated with wonderful frescoes is also one of the monuments created by Philip II. Numerous manuscripts have been housed in the library since the time of Philip II including some true treasures of illumination.

A Spanish Work of Art in the Italian Style

Not only does the Prayerbook of Philip II have 19 full-page miniatures, all 324 pages of the royal manuscript are opulently designed with decorative ornamentation and furnished with gilded initials. The private devotional book, with an unusually large format of 33.5 x 23 cm, offers an unbelievably colorful impression at first sight. The Hieronymites Andrés de León and Julián de la Fuenta el Saz were the artists responsible for the manuscript; their miniatures, frames, and initials are reminiscent of the fantastic art of Giulio Clovio in their perfection.

Airy Miniatures Alongside Ornamental Bordures

The biblical scenes of the miniatures play out above and before airy green landscapes and interior spaces designed with a strict perspective. The figures in colorful, lightly draped garments are extremely animated and lovingly individualized. The large-format miniatures are surrounded by broad bordures, which also adorn some pages of text. Tasty fruits and splendid blossoms alternate in the décor with playful cherubs and other ornaments. Some of the pages are designed in a restrained yet noble manner with monochrome frames and bewildering golden ornaments, in which wonderful medallions with monochrome depictions of saints are embedded. The initials of the text are also furnished with gold in accordance with the overall artistic design. The Prayerbook of Philip II represents an outstanding attestation of 16th century Spanish illumination and, with its artistic décor of the highest quality, is worthy of a royal owner.


Alternative Titles
Capitulario de Felipe II
Gebetbuch Philipps II.
Size / Format
324 pages / 33.5 x 24.0 cm
Humanistic Rotunda
19 full-page miniatures and numerous ornamental pages in the Renaissance style with decorative initials
Religious calendar, prayers for mass in the royal chapel, prayers for Philip II's deceased relatives
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Capitulario de Felipe II  Facsimile Edition
Testimonio Compañía Editorial – Madrid, 1996
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Detail Picture

Prayerbook of Philip II

The Holy Trinity

This wonderfully detailed and artfully executed medallion miniature preceding a text page depicts the Holy Trinity. God the Father sits on the right wearing a crown, holding a globus cruciger or “cross-bearing orb”, and making the sign of the benediction. Christ sits on the left holding the cross with one hand and grazing the wound in his side with the other. A white dove representing the Holy Spirit hangs in the air above them as though it were about to fly out from the page.

Capitulario de Felipe II
Single Page

Prayerbook of Philip II

The Feast of Saints Peter and Paul

Two of the most important figures of the early Church are depicted in front of a symmetrical classical architecture including fluted columns and golden capitals with flowering garlands suspended between them. The symmetrical, tripartite organization of the miniature shows each figure standing in front of two columns and between three niches. Their shared feast is celebrated on June 29th.

Holding the keys to the kingdom of heaven, Peter assumes the primary position in the hierarchical order, standing on the left, which would be on the right when looking out from the altar. Paul holds the sword of his martyrdom and in contrast to Peter, who looks straight ahead, his face is shown in profile. Both men have curly hair, fluffy beards, and golden halos.

Capitulario de Felipe II
Facsimile Editions

#1 Capitulario de Felipe II

Publisher: Testimonio Compañía Editorial – Madrid, 1996
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Binding: Hand stitched and bound in red velvet. Faithful reproduction of the original with silver coloured hardware.
Commentary: 1 volume (307 pages) by Juan José Martín González and José Manuel Ruiz Asencio
Language: Spanish
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: €€€ (3,000€ - 7,000€)
Edition available
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