Important Medieval Manuscript from the Metropolitan Museum of Art on view at the Getty Museum at the Getty Center
A related exhibition from Getty Museum's collection of illuminated manuscripts also on view
April 7 through July 5, 1998
J. Paul Getty Museum, North Pavilion, Courtyard Level
March 11, 1998
One of the most beloved masterpieces of medieval French art, the Hours of Jeanne d'Évreux, created by the Parisian illuminator Jean Pucelle between 1324-28, is the subject of an exhibition opening this spring at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center. Measuring only 3-1/2 by 2-1/2 inches, the book of prayers is a jewel in the crown of The Cloisters, the branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted to medieval art. Made for a major patron of the arts and one of the most dynamic women of the French court, the book contains some of the most exquisite and evocative painting of the Gothic period. Because its leaves were recently removed from the binding to reproduce them for a facsimile edition, all of the book's major paintings plus many other decorated pages will be exhibited simultaneously for the first time ever. Prayerbook for a Queen: The Hours of Jeanne d'Évreux will be on view from April 7 though July 5, 1998.
"The Hours of Jeanne d'Évreux is one of the great works of medieval art and a seminal example of French medieval painting," said John Walsh, Director of the Getty Museum. "This exhibition offers an extraordinary opportunity for our visitors to view the book's fascinating and vivid miniature paintings, which are a wonder of imagination and execution. They are small in size, yet monumental in scale."
The exhibition has been co-organized by Barbara Drake Boehm, curator of Medieval Art at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and Thomas Kren, Curator of Manuscripts at the Getty Museum. Mr. Kren said: "This is a rare and perfect opportunity to enjoy a medieval manuscript intimately, close to the way its owner originally did. Visitors to the Getty can in effect 'turn the pages' of the book while strolling through the gallery, following the unfolding of individual stories told in sequences of paintings."
Pucelle, a master illuminator, was active in Paris in the 1320s and was renowned at the French royal court. Like most books of hours, Pucelle's Hours of Jeanne d'Évreux fosters devotion to the Virgin Mary and also provides meditations on the meaning and story of Christ. Its solemn prayers are enlivened by the 25 paintings (called miniatures) that tell the Christmas and Easter stories and narrate the life of the devout and heroic Saint Louis, himself a king of France and the great-grandfather of Jeanne, who was the reigning queen from 1324 to 1328.
Two of the book's most commanding, intricately detailed images, The Betrayal of Christ and The Annunciation, are found on facing pages in a section devoted to prayer services for the Virgin. At left, amid a crowd of figures, Judas embraces Christ, identifying him for the Roman soldiers who will arrest him. In The Annunciation the Archangel Gabriel appears at Mary's house to let the Virgin know that she will bear the Christ child. Within this same image, contained in the initial below the sacred story, Jeanne d'Évreux kneels in prayer, her book in hand.
Such religious scenes provide the artistic focus of the book, but the manuscript is equally famous for its drolleries, the amusing figures that frolic in Gothic manuscripts. In the margins of the pages of the Hours of Jeanne d'Évreux these whimsical creatures reflect the life of the denizens of medieval Paris in ensembles of infinite variety.
In addition to this manuscript, The Cloisters and the Metropolitan are also lending other highlights from their distinguished holdings of French Gothic art. They include an alabaster statue of the Virgin and Child that was possibly commissioned by Jeanne d'Évreux and another precious prayer book, which was made for a subsequent queen of France, Bonne of Luxembourg. Following its showing at the Getty Museum, the exhibition will return to the Metropolitan where it will be on view from May 11 through August 29, 1999.
On the occasion of the Prayerbook for a Queen exhibition, the Getty Museum has also taken the opportunity to organize a related exhibition, Out-of-Bounds: Marginal Imagery in Illuminated Manuscripts (April 7-July 5, 1998) which looks into the margins of medieval books and explains their wealth of varied and entertaining subject matter: children playing games, revelers making music, men battling fantastic creatures, and composite figures wending their ways through the sinuous foliage of the painted border. It features manuscripts from the Museum's permanent collection and one manuscript lent from a private collection. They date from the 11th to the 16th century and come from throughout western Europe.
This exhibition, organized by Margot McIlwain Nishimura of the Museum's Department of Manuscripts, not only features examples of marginalia in Bibles, choir books, and prayer books of the Gothic era--when the taste for marginalia reached its height--but it also traces the pre-history of marginal figures in the inhabited initials of early medieval manuscripts. It explores the persistent presence of marginal motifs in the elaborate painted borders of late medieval manuscripts and the emergence of the "grotesques" (decorative and figural motifs inspired by ancient art) in Italian Renaissance illumination.
Related Public Programs
In conjunction with the exhibitions, the Getty will offer two lectures, a seminar and a concert:
Lecture, Harold M. Williams Auditorium
Thursday, April 9, 1998, 7 p.m.
Barbara Drake Boehm, curator of Medieval Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
"'Lighting the Candle before Dawn': Jeanne d'Évreux, Queen of France"
Seminar, Museum Lecture Hall
Tuesday, April 14, 2:30 p.m.
Abigail Quandt, Conservator of Rare Books and Manuscripts
The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, Maryland
"Royal Treatment: The Conservation of the Hours of Jeanne d'Évreux"
Lecture, Harold M. Williams Auditorium
Friday, May 8, 1998, 7 p.m.
Mary Rouse, Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies
University of California, Los Angeles
"Jean Pucelle's Community: Neighbors and Neighborhood, Artists and Patrons"
Concert of fourteenth-century French music
Saturday, June 13, 1998, 2 p.m.
Voxfire, one of Los Angeles's most highly regarded interpreters of early vocal music, will present vocal and instrumental music. Acapella works for three voices, works for voice and instrumental accompaniment, and purely instrumental works will be performed.
(Tickets for this performance are not yet available; additional information will follow at a later date.)
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