Primer of Claude de France

Primer of Claude de France – Quaternio Verlag Luzern – MS 159 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)

Romorantin, Loire Valley (France) β€” 1505

More than just a simple "children's book": the magnificently illuminated primer for the daughter of the French queen Anne de Bretagne with beautiful insights into into medieval France

  1. Guido Mazzoni's (ca. 1445–1518) work belongs to one of the rarest book genres of the Middle Ages: children’s books

  2. The educational codex for Princess Claude de France (1499–1524), daughter of Queen Anne de Bretagne, shows inter alia the alphabet in various scripts

  3. Above all, the painter created realistic insights into medieval cities, Renaissance palaces, and natural landscapes

Primer of Claude de France

Formerly 2,100  β‚¬
Special Offer until 01/31/2024 (like new) 1,299  β‚¬
  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Primer of Claude de France

The Primer of Claude de France was created by the Italian court painter Guido Mazzoni, considered to be one of the most gifted and versatile artists of his time, in 1505 at the behest of the French Queen and highly educated patron of the arts Anne de Bretagne. The manuscript belongs to one of the rarest book genres of the Middle Ages, namely children's books, and probably helped the future French Queen Claude learn to read and memorize the most important Christian prayers of the time. The magnificent codex presents the alphabet in various letter variations of a neat Gothic textualis and is adorned with magnificent watercolor-like miniatures framed by ornate gold frames. The opulent decoration includes a total of 2 full-page devotional pictures of the patroness and her daughter, 36 smaller miniatures of the Genesis, as well as 12 splendid vignettes and 22 decorated initials on a golden ground.

Primer of Claude de France

Primers, from which children learn the alphabet and reading, only existed among the upper crust in the Middle Ages. At the least, only a few medieval manuscripts of this type have survived. Probably the most beautiful of these rare examples if the Primer of Claude de France from 1505. The codex, which shows the alphabet in parts with variations of lettering, as well as containing the most important Christian prayers, is endowed with a multitude of valuable pictures. Two full page pictures and 36 miniatures framed in golden borders with architecture and embellished with initials of brushed gold decorate the codex.

Commissioned by the Queen of France

In the year 1505, Claude, the firstborn daughter of the French queen, Anne de Bretagne, was six years old. Anne is considered to be a highly educated lover of art and a few Italian Renaissance artists were working at the French court at this time. The queen, who highly valued Italian art, wanted to enable her daughter to teach herself how to read and write. She commissioned the Italian painter Guido Mazzoni of Modena to design a work in a child-oriented format. Along with an explanation of the alphabet, the codex also needed to contain the daily prayers that every child in the Middle Ages needed to learn. Guido Mazzoni was considered to be one of the most gifted and versatile artists of his time because of his sculpture, painting, and book illumination.

A Posterchild of French Book Art

The eventual Queen Claude was herself a renowned lover of books. She prized her first codex and it is possible that she used it to teach her own children to read. The later whereabouts of the work are not precisely known. The manuscript was first listed in the private collection of a wealthy English family in the 18th century. In 1808, the Irish philanthropist and antiquarian Viscount Richard Fitzwilliam of Merrion acquired the book and bequeathed it after his death to the University of Cambridge along with an opulent collection of manuscripts.

An Enchanting Wealth of Imagery

The primer opens with a full page painting of Queen Anne de Bretagne, who is depicted in the company of her namesake, Anna. Following this painting are 36 miniatures, which relate the events of the creation story through the Fall of Man and the death of Adam and relate therewith the sacred history up to the birth of Jesus Christ. The picture stories were annotated with clear, large script in small description fields. For the depictions of landscapes the painter chose nearly transparent colors, which would show pictures like watercolors and allow the sharply contoured and lightly colored figures to move into the foreground. The miniatures are framed with architectural borders of finely shimmering brushed gold. The codex closes with a portrait of the young Princess Claude who is likewise depicted with her namesake, Claudius.

An Adept Master

An unmistakable detail of the primer is the realistic borders and decorated initials which embellish the miniatures and text of the book. Guido Mazzoni accumulated a lot of experience in the depiction of architecture as a sculptor. The borders show golden, artfully contoured and bedecked columns, bases, and capitals that lend the miniatures a decorative frame. The painter succeeded in reproducing realistic insights into medieval cities, Renaissance palaces, and natural landscapes. He set the impressive pictures against a text, which was decorated with golden initials that were at times outlined with flowery ornaments, birds, and angelic figures. The Primer of Claude de France continues to be a pleasure for the eye of the beholder to this day.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Fibel der Claude de France
L’AbΓ©cΓ©daire de Claude de France
Size / Format
20 pages / 26.0 Γ— 17.5 cm
Origin
France
Date
1505
Script
Gothic Textura
Illustrations
36 miniatures, 12 vignettes, 2 full-page illuminations and 22 initials on gold ground with golden architectural borders
Content
Alphabet with variations of lettering, important Christian prayers
Patron
Anne de Bretagne (1477–1514), Queen Consort of France
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Richard FitzWilliam, 7th Viscount FitzWilliam of Mount Merrion (1745–1816)

Available facsimile editions:
Primer of Claude de France – Quaternio Verlag Luzern – MS 159 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Lucerne, 2012
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Detail Picture

Primer of Claude de France

Annunciation to the Shepherds

The shepherds tending their flocks near Bethlehem when Jesus was born are shown here, some looking awed while one has his arms crossed skeptically, in the moment that an angel of the Lord appeared to them. Depicted in blue and gold leaf, it holds a banderole and declares: β€œDo not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Lk. 2:10-11)

Primer of Claude de France – Quaternio Verlag Luzern – MS 159 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Single Page

Primer of Claude de France

Anne of Brittany Praying to St Claude

Here we see a typical patron portrait of Queen Anne, who commissioned the codex for her daughter Claude. The miniature is presented in a golden architectural frame with her coat of arms displayed in the bas-de-page with a motto and held by an angel standing on a pillar to the left. Her arms are presented once more on the carpet that she kneels upon as a pious example to her daughter.

The Queen, dressed in yellow, kneels alongside a youthful Virgin Mary before a prayer desk covered by a blue cloth with more personal symbols: β€œA” initials and fleur-de-lis. They are being presented by Saint Anne to Saint Claudius of BesanΓ§on, Princess Claude’s patron saint. The Queen’s face is particularly detailed as is St. Claude’s cloak, highlighted by a thin layer of gold.

Primer of Claude de France – Quaternio Verlag Luzern – MS 159 – Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Fibel der Claude de France

Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Lucerne, 2012

Publisher: Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Lucerne, 2012
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Binding: Reddish-brown leather modelled on the original binding
Commentary: 1 volume (175 pages) by Roger S. Wieck, Eberhard KΓΆnig, and Cynthia J. Brown
Languages: English, 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.
Formerly 2,100  β‚¬
Special Offer until 01/31/2024 (like new) 1,299  β‚¬
You might also be interested in:
Gospel Book of Charles d'OrlΓ©ans, Count of AngoulΓͺme – CM Editores – Res. 51 – Biblioteca Nacional de EspaΓ±a (Madrid, Spain)
Gospel Book of Charles d'OrlΓ©ans, Count of AngoulΓͺme
France – Beginning of the 16th century

Commissioned by Queen Claude and King François I of France: a shimmering golden masterpiece of French illumination with large and impressive miniatures

Experience More
Prayer Book of Claude de France – Quaternio Verlag Luzern – MS M.1166 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Prayer Book of Claude de France
Tours (France) – Ca. 1517

Enchanting art in the smallest of spaces: the prayer book of Queen Claude de France is exuberantly decorated with 132 biblical scenes on 104 pages and measures only 6.9 Γ— 4.9 cm

Experience More
Textbook for Emperor Maximilian – Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Cod. Vindob. 2368 – Γ–sterreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Textbook for Emperor Maximilian
Vienna (Austria) – Around 1466

The first textbook for the "last knight": the future emperor's golden miniatures for the Our Father and Hail Mary

Experience More
Valois Codex - Casanatense Evangeliary – Vallecchi – Ms. 2020 – Biblioteca Casanatense (Rome, Italy)
Valois Codex - Casanatense Evangeliary
Probably Tours (France) – Around 1526

A textbook for captivity: beautiful miniatures for the Dauphin of France while in Spanish custody

Experience More
Aurea Expositio Hymnorum una cum Textu – Vicent Garcia Editores – R/39638 – Biblioteca Nacional de EspaΓ±a (Madrid, Spain)
Aurea Expositio Hymnorum una cum Textu
Zaragoza (Spain) – February 1st, 1515

For Queen Isabella I of Spain: a treatise on Spanish grammar based on Latin and Greek models

Experience More
Gothic Alphabet of Mary of Burgundy – Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Ms. II 845 – BibliothΓ¨que Royale de Belgique (Brussels, Belgium)
Gothic Alphabet of Mary of Burgundy
Belgium – Ca. 1550

A reading primer for Mary of Burgundy: grand Gothic initials as an invitation to the daughter of Charles the Bold to discover all kinds of exciting characters, interesting animals, and mysterious faces while learning to read

Experience More
Blog articles worth reading
Filter selection
Publisher