Master of James IV of Scotland

  • before 1465 - about 1541
  • Illuminator
  • Flemish

Named for a remarkable portrait of the monarch James IV of Scotland in a devotional manuscript, the Master of James IV of Scotland was one of the finest Flemish illuminators active in the years around 1500. Over a period of more than forty years, the artist contributed to some of the most lavish and important manuscripts of the era, in addition to directing an active workshop.

The illuminator's miniatures are populated by robust, unidealized figures that are set into colorful landscapes or detailed, convincing interiors. The Master of James IV had a flair for narrative unequalled at the time, often incorporating relatively obscure biblical imagery into devotional books or creating vivid scenes of daily life for calendar illuminations. The artist's key innovation lay in the conception of page layout. Experimenting with a variety of illusionistic elements, the illuminator developed the relationship between miniature and border to an enchanting extreme, often blurring the boundaries between the two or using the distinctions between them to advance the narrative.

Several pieces of circumstantial evidence, including the fact the illuminator is known to have also executed several large-scale paintings on wood panels, suggest that the Master of James IV may be the famed artist Gerard Horenbout.