Section III: Hours of the Virgin
The Hours of the Virgin sanctified the day by establishing the following times
of prayer (with Matins and Lauds said together),
and each hour was accompanied by an illumination (see table for hours and their
standard illumination). These images draw one's
attention to the life of the Virgin and her role, even her co-suffering, in
Christ's life. The illuminations do not illustrate the text;
rather, they encourage one to meditate on the life of the Virgin as one reads
the prayers, psalms, and hymns of the hour.
The psalmist proclaims, "Seven times a day I have given praise to thee" (Psalm
118: 164). The Hours of the Virgin afford the
opportunity for the laity, not only the clergy, to praise God seven times a
Officium Parvum Beate Marie Virginis
, or "Little
Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary", originated in the Breviary (the service
book for the clergy). "What had started as an accretion to
the Breviary became the favorite prayerbook of layfolk everywhere" (Harthan
Books of Hours
Northern France (probably Paris), ca. 1420
strong resemblance to the work of the Boucicaut Master, though not his work;
probably produced by a follower or in the workshop of a follower
19.6 cm. by 13.5 cm., BX2080/L77/early 15th C.
Matins: Annunciation to the Virgin
The Virgin Mary devoutly kneels with her prayer book open. The Angel Gabriel,
who brings the good news, holds a scroll
upon which is written the beginning of Luke 1:28 -- “Hail, full of grace, the
Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.”
Between Mary and Gabriel stands a white lily, which is commonly pictured with
Mary to symbolize her purity. God the Father
appears in the upper-left corner, with rays of splendor emanating from his
mouth. The Holy Spirit, represented by a dove, descends
from God to Mary.
Probably Flemish, (1st-) 2nd quarter of the 15th C.
very eccentric artist
22.5 cm. by 16 cm., BX2080/R5/15th C.
Who is greeting whom? In the visitation scene, Elizabeth, the future mother of
John the Baptist, meets Mary, the future mother of
Christ. Behind them is the house of Zacharias, Elizabeth's husband. As the
illustration seems to reflect, it is unclear whether
Elizabeth greets Mary, or Mary greets Elizabeth. Latin texts have Elizabeth
proclaiming what would become the popular
Magnificat anima mea Dominum
). Greek texts (though unavailable to illustrators before 1516) present Mary as
MS 7 France, ca. teens or 1520s
resembles work of the Master of Morgan 85; possibly the work of a follower of
the Master of Petrarch's Triumphs
16.3 cm. by 11.5 cm., BX2080/R57/ca. 1530
In this depiction of the Nativity, we see Mary and Joseph beholding the infant
Christ, upon whom shines the star of Bethlehem; a
donkey and a bull participate in the adoration. Shepherds, identified by their
characteristic bagpipe and staff, come to worship the
Infant. Behind them is the town of Bethlehem.
Flemish, ca. 1460
stylistically related to Loyset Liedet
19.3 cm. by 13.2 cm., BX2080/L79/ca. 1450
Terce: The Annunciation to the Shepherds
An angel announces the birth of Christ to the shepherds and holds a scroll that
Gloria in Excelsis Deo
, “glory to God in the
highest.” The shepherds are easily identified by the sheep, their staves, and
Probably Parisian, late 15th C., could be ca. 1490s
very standard late 15th C. style, stylistically similar to work of Jean
17.5 cm. by 11.7 cm, BX2080/L75/late 15th C.
Sext: Adoration of the Three Magi
Typically a star guided the Magi to Bethlehem and represents Divine guidance.
Melchior, the older of them, with crown
removed in reverence towards the Infant, brings Frankincense in a chalice;
Balthasar brings Myrrh; Caspar brings Gold.
Paris ca. 1450
possibly the work of a follower of the Bedford Master
20 cm by 13 cm, BX2080/R72/ca. 1450
None: Presentation in the Temple
40 days after Christ's birth, Mary presented the child and made an offering,
according to Mosaic custom. The high priest receives
the child while the figure behind Mary brings the customary offering of doves.
France, late 15th C. (possibly even early 16th C.)
stylistically mechanical and workmanlike
17.5 cm. by 13 cm., BX2080/L73/late 15th C.
Vespers: Flight into Egypt
Mary, Joseph, and the infant Christ flee to Egypt. Soldiers follow, but are
prevented by the wheat fields. Legends told of how
freshly harvested fields sprouted forth wheat to help the Holy Family escape.
They fled to escape Herod's slaughter of the young
children, an event frequently represented by a decapitated child in the
background. In this particular illumination, a broken golden
statue is depicted instead. Recalling an apocryphal Biblical text popular in
the middle ages, this depiction tells of the idols in the
temple suddenly breaking when the Virgin and Christ entered.
Northern France (more provincial than Parisian), early 15th C.|
resembles work of Master of the Margaret D'Orleans; possibly work of a follower
20.4 cm by 14 cm., BX2080/L71/early 15th C.
Compline: The Coronation of the Virgin
Christ blesses Mary, while an angel holds a crown above her in readiness.
Before the fifteenth century, illuminations displayed
Christ bestowing the crown; later depictions show an angel crowning the Virgin.
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