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Paris, France (Place Created)
Tempera colors, gold, and ink on parchment; 19th century gold-tooled red leather binding with traces of clasps
Closed: 13.8 × 9.8 × 5 cm (5 7/16 × 3 7/8 × 1 15/16 in.)
By the late Middle Ages, personal prayer books or "books of hours" were extremely common, especially among the upper classes in Paris, a city renowned for its production of hand-illuminated books. The Poncher Hours is an unusual example of the degree to which books of hours could be highly personalized for the patron it was commissioned for--in this case, Denise Poncher, a young woman from an elite family whose father served as treasurer of wars for the French crown and whose uncle was bishop of Paris. What personalizes this book, which may have been given on the occasion of her wedding, are the many allusions to marriage and motherhood in the selection of specific texts and images, as well as an illustration that includes the bride herself and also a coat of arms combining the Poncher arms with those of her husband, Jean Brosset.
The manuscript includes a rare chapter for personal prayer books--the Hours of the Conception--mixed in with the more common Hours of the Virgin, Hours of the Cross, and Hours of the Holy Spirit. The cycle of illuminations begins with a glorious, delicate full-age miniature of the Virgin in a mandorla flanked by saints Barbara and Catherine. Other illuminations in the manuscript refer to the roles of wife and mother, including Mary Spinning Wool, Anne Teaching the Virgin to Read, and The Virgo Lactans. The selection of prayers considered instructive for a young woman is similarly highly thematic, with topics that range from the theological and cardinal virtues to what to say when greeting the king. The manuscript's texts are written in French and Latin, with some Latin passages punctuated by the personal pronoun "tu" (the familiar "you" in French).
Heaven, Hell, and Dying Well: Images of Death in the Middle Ages (May 29 to August 12, 2012) (fols. 155v - 156)
- The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), May 29 to August 12, 2012
The Art of Devotion in the Middle Ages (August 28, 2012 to February 5, 2013) (fols. 130v - 131)
- The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), August 28, 2012 to February 5, 2013
Miracles and Martyrs: Saints in the Middle Ages (August 29, 2013 to March 2, 2014) (fols. 55v - 56)
- The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), August 29, 2013 to March 2, 2014
Give and Ye Shall Receive: Gift Giving in the Middle Ages (December 12, 2014 to March 15, 2015) (fols. 92v - 93)
- The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), December 12, 2014 to March 15, 2015
Illuminating Women in the Medieval World (June 20 to September 17, 2017) (fols. 155v - 156)
- The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), June 20 to September 17, 2017
Sacred Landscapes: Nature in Renaissance Manuscripts (October 10, 2017 to January 7, 2018) (fols. 130v - 131)
- The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), October 10, 2017 to January 7, 2018
Waldmann, Klaus. "Dannazione e salvezza: Immagini dell'Aldilà al Getty Museum di Los Angeles." Alumina Pagine Miniate 10, no. 37 (April-June 2012), pp. 66-67, ill.
Morrison, Elizabeth. "Marriage, Death, and the Power of Prayer: The Hours of Denise Poncher." Getty Research Journal 6 (2014), pp. 143-50, figs. 1-5.
Morrison, Elizabeth. "The Light at the End of the Tunnel: Manuscript Illumination and the Concept of Death." In The Ivory Mirror: The Art of Mortality in Renaissance Europe. Stephen Perkinson, ed. (Brunswick/New Haven: Bowdoin College Museum of Art), pp. 86-89, ill.
Keene, Bryan C., and Alexandra Kaczenski. Sacred Landscapes: Nature in Renaissance Manuscripts (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2017), pp.10-13, figs. 1, 2.
Morrison, Elizabeth. "The Light at the End of the Tunnel: Manuscript Illumination and the Concept of Death." In The Ivory Mirror ... exh. cat. Perkinson, Stephen, ed. (Brunswick: Bowdoin College Museum of Art, with Yale University Press, 2017), pp. 83-105, p. 87, fig. 2.