The Hours of Louis XII


A Masterpiece Reconstructed: The Hours of Louis XII

Thomas Kren, Mark Evans, Janet Backhouse, and Nancy Turner

Edited by Thomas Kren with Mark Evans


112 pages

PDF file size: 12.7 MB


Jean Bourdichon was the court painter to four successive French kings including Louis XII and his predecessor, Charles VIII. Bourdichon painted the Hours of Louis XII for the king of France around the time of Louis’s coronation in 1498. Published on the occasion of an exhibition held at the J. Paul Getty Museum, October 18, 2005, to January 8, 2006, and at the Victoria and Albert Museum, February 2 to May 1, 2006, A Masterpiece Reconstructed reproduces the book’s sixteen known miniatures together with a selection of other books illuminated by the artist, by his teacher Jean Fouquet, and by their contemporaries.

Janet Backhouse, who originally assembled the evidence that revealed this long-forgotten masterpiece, introduces the Hours of Louis XII and its cycle of miniatures. Thomas Kren discusses the book’s provocative miniature of Bathsheba bathing within the context of the king’s own taste and predilections and within the then-emerging genre of the female nude in French painting. Nancy Turner considers the importance of Bourdichon’s painting and illuminating technique in the Hours of Louis XII in relation to his other work. Mark Evans examines the individual histories of each of the surviving patrons of the book. Lastly, an appendix reconstructs the book’s devotional contents and program of illumination.

Table of Contents

  • Foreword
    William Griswold and Mark Jones
  • Preface
    Thomas Kren and Mark Evans
  • Jean Bourdichon and the Hours of Louis XII
    Janet Backhouse
  • Plates
  • Looking at Louis XII’s Bathsheba
    Thomas Kren
  • The Manuscript Painting Techniques of Jean Bourdichon
    Nancy Turner
  • The Rediscovery of a Royal Manuscript
    Mark Evans
  • Appendix: A Reconstruction of the Hours of Louis XII
    Thomas Kren and Peter Kidd
  • Suggestions for Further Reading
  • Index
  • About the Authors

About the Authors

Thomas Kren has been curator of manuscripts at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles since 1984. He co-organized the exhibition Illuminating the Renaissance: The Triumph of Flemish Manuscript Painting in Europe, the catalogue for which he and Scot McKendrick were awarded both the Eric Mitchell Prize and the International Eugene Baie Prize.

Mark Evans is senior curator of paintings at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. His principal expertise is in the field of fifteenth- and early-sixteenth-century painting and manuscript illumination. In 2005, his survey volume The Painted World: From Illumination to Abstraction was published by the V&A.

The late Janet Backhouse (1938–2004) was curator of illuminated manuscripts at the British Library until her retirement in 1998. A wide-ranging specialist in the history of manuscript illumination, she was dedicated to introducing the subject to a wider public through exhibitions and publications that also helped to make the collections of the British Library better known: Renaissance Painting in Manuscripts, The Golden Age of Anglo-Saxon Art, The Lindisfarne Gospels, The Luttrell Psalter, The Sherborne Missal, The Bedford Hours, and The Isabella Breviary.

Nancy Turner is associate conservator of manuscripts in the Department of Paper Conservation at the J. Paul Getty Museum, where she has cared for the collection since 1984. Her areas of special interest include the technical study of painting techniques and materials of Western illuminated medieval and Renaissance manuscripts.