3. Leaf from a French Book of Hours

Leaf from a French Book of Hours

Medieval mourners bring out their dead in this illuminated page (or leaf) from a 15th-century French book of hours. The page provides an ominous opening for the Office of the Dead, one of the prayer cycles typically contained within a book of hours. The books were the most popular religious tomes of medieval Europe and contained prayers, psalms and readings for Christian devotion. They were often illuminated, and the more expensive volumes were lavishly embellished and personalized for their owners. This page dates to around 1440 and is probably from eastern France.

Surrounded by an intricately interwoven border of burnished-gold ivy leaves and colorful flowers, the page depicts a funeral mass, with priests, singers in choir stalls and black-clad mourners bearing candles. In the corner, a bearded grotesque figure rides backward on a beast and raises a club, perhaps preparing to rain down eternal punishment.

Special Collections/University Archives owns leaves from books of hours from the 13th through the 16th centuries, which are frequently studied by English and art history students as well as others.

View more book of hours pages

This leaf from a 15th-century French book of hours richly illustrates the annunciation to the shepherds in watercolor and gold on vellum. Three shepherds, a dog and a sheep look up from a hillside as an angel in the sky presents a written scroll announcing the birth of Christ. Gift in memory of James Russell ’67.

An evangelist, probably St. John, writes his Gospel on a hill above a city in this colorfully bordered page from a French book of hours.

This page from a French book of hours likely depicts St. Mark writing his Gospel with a lion. A border of fronds and flowers adorns the left margin.

Christ is brought before the Jewish high priest Caiaphas in this opulently embellished leaf from a French book of hours dating to circa 1450. The scene from the Passion is surrounded by a border of blue and gold acanthus leaves, twining vines with fruits and flowers, a rooster preening before a flock of hens, a large stork and a small hunched figure in the lower right corner reading a book.

This vellum leaf from a French book of hours dates to circa 1490 and includes Latin text in Gothic-style script in black ink with red ruling. The border is illuminated with strawberries and fronds in liquid gold and tempera.

This leaf comes from a highly important group of early manuscripts of the Shahnameh, an epic poem by Persian poet Ferdowsi and the national epic of Iran and the ancient Persian Empire. This page dates to the 16th century, making it one of the earliest surviving illustrated copies of epic.

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