Vatican Office of the Virgin

Vatican Office of the Virgin

Bruges (Belgium) — Early 16th century

A luxury work for the nobility, today preserved in the Vatican Library: Flemish book illumination with golden accents and a silver splendid binding

  1. This masterpiece from Bruges reflects the luxury private devotional books popular with the nobility

  2. It stands firmly in the Flemish tradition with densely populated bordures and full-page miniatures

  3. It features dark, smooth gold for the backgrounds and bright, polished gold for shimmering accents

Vatican Office of the Virgin

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (3)
Description
Vatican Office of the Virgin

The Vatican Office of the Virgin was made in Bruges by the illuminator known as the David Master in the early 16th century. It contains 34 high-quality, full-page miniatures and countless decorative initials. The artistic bordures of the miniatures are typical for the famous Belgian style of illumination. Each image of the book is transformed into a valuable masterpiece by the application of variously worked gold.

Vatican Office of the Virgin

In the Middle Ages, noblemen and wealthy merchants had private devotional books made for them, which they used for prayer and meditation. The majority of these private prayer books arose in the 15th century. The most talented masters of that time wrote and illustrated the codices. The Belgian city of Bruges was a true stronghold of book art at that time, the most coveted manuscripts Europe-wide were produced here. The Vatican Office of the Virgin is one of the masterworks of Bruges. It was made at the beginning of the 15th century by the famous Gothic illuminator Jean Bourdichon and is illustrated with 34 full-page miniatures. Along with the miniatures, it contains countless further decorative elements and adornments.

A Renowned Master

The Vatican Office of the Virgin is attributed to the French artist Jean Bourdichon. Bourdichon was active as court painter for three French kings, namely Louis IX, Charles VIII, and Louis XI. He is considered to be the last great master of the Gothic style and initiated the early French Renaissance. Unfortunately, only a few of his works have survived. The Vatican Office of the Virgin is among his greatest feats.

An Overwhelming Wealth of Imagery

The impressive illuminated manuscript is adorned with an almost unending wealth of various decorative elements. Every important text passage of the religious work is introduced by an impressive, full-paged miniature. The text is decorated with countless colorful and sometimes large decorative initials. The miniatures are framed by decorative bordures, through which a dramatic spatial depth is produced. The bordures are, in accordance with Flemish book tradition, embellished with enchanting patterns of flowers, birds, and insects. The high-quality, colored depictions were further ennobled though the application of two kinds of gold leaf. The master employed dark, smooth gold for the backgrounds and bright, polished gold for shimmering accents. The work is an inestimably valuable rarity.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Offizium der Madonna
Size / Format
474 pages / 10.5 × 7.8 cm
Origin
Belgium
Date
Early 16th century
Language
Script
Gothic Textura
Illustrations
34 full-page miniatures, 19 elaborated intials and more than 1200 colored initials
Content
Office of the Virgin Mary and other Offices
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Vatican Office of the Virgin – Vat. lat. 10293 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Belser Verlag – Zurich, 1987
Limited Edition: 200 copies

Offizium der Madonna (Standard Edition)
Belser Verlag – Zurich, 1987
Limited Edition: 2900 copies

Offizium der Madonna (Coron Edition)
Coron Verlag – Zurich, 1999
Limited Edition: 555 copies
Detail Picture

Vatican Office of the Virgin

Christ in Majesty

Presented in an architectural frame as though it were a panel painting, this portrait of Christ in majesty is a masterpiece of Flemish Renaissance art combining realism with ornamentation. This is exemplified by the globus cruciger in his left hand, which is transparent in order to show the golden band wrapping around the other side. The hair and beard have been drawn in with countless brushstrokes while the hand giving the sign of the benediction has realistic proportions and skin folds.

Offizium der Madonna (De Luxe Edition)
Single Page

Vatican Office of the Virgin

Flight to Egypt

After the Wise Men visited baby Jesus in the manger, worshiping him and presenting their gifts to him, Mary and Joseph are divinely warned of danger. “Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, ‘Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.’” (Matt. 2:13)

As the Holy Family departs for Egypt, Joseph looks over his shoulder while driving the donkey down the road, drawing the beholder’s eyes to the Massacre of the Innocents in the distance. The scene is presented as though it were a large panel painting hanging in a church with neat rows of columns and arches creating a realistic interior space.

Offizium der Madonna (De Luxe Edition)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Offizium der Madonna (De Luxe Edition)

Belser Verlag – Zurich, 1987

Publisher: Belser Verlag – Zurich, 1987
Limited Edition: 200 copies
Binding: Silver bindung with 8 gem stones and 2 clasps
Commentary: 1 volume by Bodo Brinkmann
Language: 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.
Regular price without login (like new)1,490 
Login for a Better Price!

#2 Offizium der Madonna (Standard Edition)

Belser Verlag – Zurich, 1987

Publisher: Belser Verlag – Zurich, 1987
Limited Edition: 2900 copies
Binding: Leather
Commentary: 1 volume by Bodo Brinkmann
Language: 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.
Price Category: € (under 1,000€)
Edition available
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#3 Offizium der Madonna (Coron Edition)

Coron Verlag – Zurich, 1999

Publisher: Coron Verlag – Zurich, 1999
Limited Edition: 555 copies
Binding: Binding of red silk surrounded by a silvered metal binding with clasps decorated with 5 dark red garnet stones and 2 white decorative pearls.
Commentary: 1 volume by Bodo Brinkmann
Language: 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.
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