Book of Hours

Workshop of the Boucicaut Master
French, Paris, about 1415 - 1420
Tempera colors, gold leaf, and gold paint on parchment bound between wood boards covered with white pigskin
8 1/16 x 5 13/16 in.
MS. 22

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Three anonymous artists illuminated this book of hours for a wealthy bourgeois woman, about whom scholars know little besides that she was probably named Margaret. The book typifies those coveted by middle-class women in Europe in the early 1400s. A medieval poet mocked this materialism, referring specifically to such books: "A book of hours, too, must be mine, just as a nobleman desires. Let it be splendidly crafted in gold and azure, luxurious and elegant."

A book of hours contains prayers designed for laypeople and organized for private recitation at the eight canonical hours of the Church day. As the poet noted, the materials and decoration were as important as the textual contents. This luxuriously designed book contains seventeen three-quarter-page miniatures and twelve quarter-page miniatures, all on pages with delicate, leafy borders. The artists used expensive pigments and achieved an extremely high level of artistic refinement that undoubtedly dazzled the client.

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