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Facsimile-edition: Les Tres Belles Heures de Notre Dame.
Les Tres Belles Heures de Notre Dame
(Bibliothèque nationale, Paris)
A magnificently illuminated manuscript of the Duke of Berry.
Product is ready for delivery in 1 to 2 weeks
€ 3,780.00 
Additional picture or photo series of the product. Click to see enlarged version.
Bibliothèque nationale, Paris. 252 pages trimmed to the original format of 28 x 20 cm. Binding: red kidskin binding, richly tooled in gold and decorated with a coat-of-arms. The volume is gilt-edged on three sides. Commentary-volume: Eberhard König.
Produkt-Nr.: SK_306; Verlag/Hersteller: Faksimile-Antiquariat
One of the Most Lavish Book of Hours

The illuminated manuscript of Très Belles Heures is a true landmark of medieval book art and was created at the beginning of the 15th century by the most gifted artists of the time. 25 miniature pages display the unsurpassed splendour of book illumination which has made this manuscript so famous. It is no wonder that the Duke of Berry's inventory mentions it as "a most beautiful Book of Hours of Our Lady in artful letters".

Both text and picture fascinate through a most surprising, expensive decoration. Exuberant gold and colours of enormous luminosity were chosen to embellish the narrative scenes while most stunning pictures recount both religious and profane life of the Middle Ages.

Each of the miniature pages is composed of three elements. There is always one large miniature in the style of panel painting accompanied by a lavishly historiated initial and a figurative scene in the bottom margin. This conception conveys the overall impression that the manuscript obeys the laws of a most sophisticated artistic design.

A Colossal Work with an Adventurous History

Originally, the Très Belles Heures de Notre-Dame presented one of the most exquisite compositions ever seen in the history of manuscripts. For its beauty and expensive decoration, the work has always been highly appreciated as an artefact and collector's item since the Middle Ages. In the course of its eventful history the manuscript was split up into three parts.

In 1412 the Duke of Berry donated this colossal illuminated manuscript to his treasurer Robinet d'Estampes. He kept the Book of Hours for himself but the two other sections of the work, namely prayers dedicated to certain saints and a Missal, went to the House of Bavaria-Holland.

The Missal later found its way to Milan, the Prayers ended up in Turin. Unfortunately, the Turin Prayers have been lost forever: they burnt in 1904 when the whole library was destroyed by fire, with the exception of four leaves which are kept today in the Louvre in Paris (see page 40 of this catalogue). The Missal, today called The Turin-Milan Hours and preserved in Turin (see page 42), is also part of the publishing programme of Fine Art Facsimile Publishers Lucerne.

The original Book of Hours which Robinet had kept for himself remained as a family possession up to the 18th century. In the 19th century Alphonse, baron de Rothschild, acquired the manuscript, his heirs donated it to the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris in 1956.

A Unique Position in the History of Art

Following long years of scientific studies the author of the commentary volume made one surprising finding hitherto unknown: Obviously all painters who participated in the decoration of the manuscript were panel painters.

Each individual miniature of the manuscript is a work of art in its own right, a facet of the overwhelming richness of book illumination which not only comprised painters of the capital, Paris, but also painters from Flanders.

The co-operation between such different illuminators as the Master of the Parement de Narbonne with his monumental art, the Master of the Holy Spirit with his most vivid illustrations and finally the Master of John the Baptist with his soft tones, all add to the charm of this sumptuous manuscript. Furthermore, two miniatures pages are ascribed to the Limburg brothers, outstanding painters of their time. Free from the predefined composition principles of medieval book workshops, the artists were mainly fired by their own ideas and conceptions.

The unique design of borders and architecture in this for art historians important work is presumably the result of the first and the last attempt made by artists in this direction. After 1412 the famous Limburg brothers made their own additions to this perfect manuscript by contributing the last two illustrations in their well-known unsurpassed style.

The Fine Art Facsimile Edition

All 252 pages in the format of 28 x 20 cm have been reproduced in full accordance with the original. The miniatures are decorated with gold leaf and burnished gold. Texts and historiated initials, ornamental bands and ornaments are rendered faithfully.

The lavish red kidskin binding is richly tooled in gold and decorated with a coat-of-arms. The volume is gilt-edged on three sides. The leaves were sewn by hand onto six cords.

The Commentary Volume

The scientific commentary serves as a key to understanding the Très Belles Heures de Notre-Dame and provides a comprehensive and easily readable commentary on the miniatures. It also describes the history of the Book of Hours, its artists and the person for whom it was made.

Documentation Kit

A documentation folder containing two full-sized leaves from the facsimile edition and an illustrated 12-page information brochure is available for information upon request.
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