Books of Ours

MBAMOn October 16th, after a lengthy trek in the Mount Royal Park to admire the autumn foliage, we went to the Museum of Fine Arts to have a look at a small exhibition about books of hours. Titled “Resplendent Illuminations” the exhibit displays Books of Hours from the medieval and Renaissance eras (13th to the 16th Century) but the interesting part is that they are all from Quebec (seven private and public collections). The exhibit, born from in-depth academic research, offers more than 50 artifacts (leaves, complete manuscripts, prints) and is held at the MMFA (pavillon Jean-Noël Desmarais – niveau S2) from September 5, 2018 to January 6, 2019.

Created for the Christian faithfuls (not for men of the cloth but for lay people), Books of Hours offered a collection of calendar of holy and religious feasts as well as passages from the gospels and prayers. They were used for devotion but also to learn reading. What’s characterize them however is that they were personalized with family information (births and weddings) and illuminated with miniature paintings (illuminations) illustrating the life of Christ, the saints or the Virgin Mary. Very minute and beautiful art.

It is really amazing that the faithfuls of New France would bring such beautiful manuscripts with them (or order them abroad) to express their devotion and that those books ended up being so well preserved. Unfortunately, to satisfy the thirst of modern collectors, such beautiful manuscripts were often cut open and sold by the pages (to maximize profits). That’s why many of the artifacts displayed are simple folio. I am quite surprise to see that most Books of Hours are so small, usually in duodecimo book format (each folio has been folded four times to make twelve leaves or twenty-four pages). A detail that I didn’t know: some books of hours were produced AFTER the invention of the printing press (c1450)… The exhibit display seven of those, where wood- and metal cuts replaced illuminations.

Catalogue_raisonné_des_livres_dHeuresThe catalog of this magnificent exhibit (and more) has been published (in French): Catalogue raisonné des livres d’Heures conservés au Québec, edited by Brenda Dunn-Lardeau. Québec, Presses de l’Université du Québec, 2018. 468 pages. $48 (softcover)/$55 (hardcover), ISBN 978-2-7605-4975-3. [ Amazon / BAnQ / Biblio / WorldCat ]

It is a small exhibit (only two rooms) but it is quite enlightening and well-worth seeing for all (ancient) books lovers. You really should take the time to go see it.

Here are some pictures that I took as a memento:

First room

Second room

More pictures are available on my Flickr album. View the legends for all pictures after the jump

[ Traduire ]

  • IMG_3726 : Horae for the use of Rouen, c1460-1475, Normandy, Musée d’Art de Joliette. Nuns & priests praying around a coffin, floral decorations.
  • IMG_3630 : Hours of Philippe de Montholon, c1460, Hainaut/Dijon, Archives of the Jesuits in Canada. Adoration of the Magi.
  • IMG_3632 : Rhodes Hours, c1460-1465, Paris, McGill University Library. Annunciation scene.
  • IMG_3635 : Horae for the use of Rome, c1390-1400, Bruges/Florence, UQAM Arts Library. Ornemental capitals and decorative margins of coloured and burnished gold vines. Announciation, decoration incorporating grotesques & animals.
  • IMG_3637, 3639 : Masmines et Bouthillier Hours, c1500, Ghent, Archives of the Jesuits in Canada. Heraldic crest of two Flemish families with illustration of the crucifixion.
  • IMG_3640 : Bordures décorées du nom des possesseurs, c1475-1480, Lyon, McGill University Library. Personnalised with the names of the owner, here to commemorate a wedding.
  • IMG_3642 : Horae for the use of Rome, 1515, Paris, Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice (Montréal). In-quarto format. Engraving: arrest of Christ.
  • IMG_3644 : Heures de Notre dame, a l’usage de Rome, selon la reformation de notre S. Pere Pape Pie V, 1583, Paris, Musée de l’Amérique Francophone (Québec). Printed music sheet.
  • IMG_3646 : Hore intemperate Virginias Dei génitrices Marie for the use of Rome, 1516, Paris, McGill University Library. Printed on vellum, illustration of King David in prayers and the coronation of King David.
  • IMG_3648 : Horae for the use of Rome, 1504, Paris, McGill University Library. Printed Book of Hours. Only one other copy of this edition known (in Munich). Engraving of the “Anatomical Man with the Fool” showing the organs, the Planets for the blood-letting time-table, and explaining the four humours: blood, phlegm, yellow and black biles.
  • IMG_3650 : Hours for the use of Toul, c1500-1510, 1547, 1560, Paris, Musée de l’Amérique Francophone (Québec). Hybrid book resulting from the assemblage of different editions with a manuscript leaf in latin detached and inserted in the book of hours.
  • IMG_3652 : Calendar of the month of October, c1475-1480, Lyon, McGill University Library. Calendar giving the feasts of saints and liturgical feasts, illustrated signs of the zodiac or work related to each month. The front is illustrated with a seeding scene (on the back we find a scorpion).
  • IMG_3655, 3656 : Folio from a Book of Hours for the use of Paris (displayed on the screen of a tablet), c1430-1435, Paris. Musée des Beaux-arts de Montréal. Annunciation.
  • IMG_3657 : Seven miniatures from a breviary (displayed on the screen of a tablet), c1470, Rouen, McGill University Library. Illustration of the psalter: David pointing to his mouth (Psalm 38).
  • IMG_3658 : Seven miniatures from a breviary (displayed on the screen of a tablet), c1470, Rouen, McGill University Library. Illustration of the psalter: David ringing the bells (Psalm 80).
  • IMG_3659 : Seven miniatures from a breviary (displayed on the screen of a tablet), c1470, Rouen, McGill University Library. Illustration of the psalter:  Choristers at a lectern (Psalm 97).
  • IMG_3660 : Seven miniatures from a breviary (displayed on the screen of a tablet), c1470, Rouen, McGill University Library. Illustration of the psalter: Annunciation (Office of the Virgin).
  • IMG_3661 : Seven miniatures from a breviary (displayed on the screen of a tablet), c1470, Rouen, McGill University Library. Illustration of the psalter: “a corpse in a cemetery above which takes place a fight between Saint Michael and the Devil for the soul of the dead man. Meanwhile, a hermit monk is praying, with a prayer book open on his knees” (Office of the Dead).
  • IMG_3685 : Seven miniatures from a breviary, c1470, Rouen, McGill University Library. Illustration of the psalter: Annunciation (Office of the Virgin). Those illuminated miniatures are REALLY small !
  • IMG_3664 : Hours of Pellegrin de Remicourt and Madeleine Symier, c1470-1475, Rouen, UQAM Arts Library. Annunciation to the Shepherds.
  • IMG_3666 : Tabouret-Bernard Hours, c1480-1490, Burgundy, McGill University Library. Adoration of the Magi.
  • IMG_3668 : Officium beate Marie secundum usum Romanum, c1500-1510, Bruges, McGill University Library. Scene of the Massacre of the Innocents (Vespers), with floral and insects patterns. Very small book.
  • IMG_3670 : Horae for the use of Paris, c1475-1480, Paris, Musée des Beaux-arts de Montréal. Pentecost scene (the Holy Spirit descending upon the apostles “in the form of a dove with rays of fire to symbolize the gift of tongues, conferred on the disciples of Christ to evangelize the peoples”.
  • IMG_3672 : Saint Sébald de Nuremberg, c1515-1525, Flandre, Musée des Beaux-arts de Montréal. “St. Sebald of Nuremberg, patron saint of the city. Sitting in an armchair, he holds in one hand a pilgrim’s staff, and on the other, (…) a model of a church. (…) On his hat are four pilgrim insignia”. Architectural decor and chivalrous tournament.
  • IMG_3674 : Le Christ aux outrages, 1525, Paris, McGill University Library. Engraving painted with watercolor illustrating the affronts and tortures that will have to undergo Christ during his Passion. However, the translation (not approved and prohibited by La Sorbonne) complains rather of the competition of the Italian actors to the court of François I.
  • IMG_3690 : The Flagellation and the beginning of Terce, c1425-1450, Bruges, McGill University Library. Folios of a book of Hours manuscript in Latin for the use of Rome.
  • IMG_3692 : Adoration of the Magi, c1500, Rouen, McGill University Library. Folio of a book of Hours manuscript in Latin for the use of Rouen.
  • IMG_3694 : Intercessory prayers to Saint Barbara, c1475-1485, Paris, McGill University Library. Folio of a book of Hours manuscript in Latin.
  • IMG_3696 : Deposition of Christ, c1375, Venetia, Musée des Beaux-arts de Montréal. Folio of a book of Hours manuscript in Latin.
  • IMG_3698 : Woman reading in a Studiolo, c1375, Venetia, Musée des Beaux-arts de Montréal. Folio of a book of Hours manuscript in Latin.
  • IMG_3700 : Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, c1400-1415, Paris, Musée des Beaux-arts de Montréal. Folio of a book of Hours manuscript in Latin for the use of Besançon.
  • IMG_3702 : Visitation, c1430-1440, Bayeux, McGill University Library. Folio of a book of Hours manuscript in Latin for the use of Bayeux. Scene of the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth.
  • IMG_3703 : The Triumph of the Virgin, c1430-1440, Bayeux, McGill University Library. Folio of a book of Hours manuscript in Latin for the use of Bayeux. Scene of the Triumph of the Virgin next to Christ.
  • IMG_3705 : The Journey of Saint Ursula, c1480-1490, Augsbourg, McGill University Library. Watercolor engraving depicting “the arrival in Cologne of Saint Ursula with some of her eleven thousand virgins (…) pursued by the Huns, of which we see an assailant, a sword in the belt”.
  • IMG_3707 : The Nativity, c1500, Bavière, McGill University Library. Miniature cut from a manuscript devotional work.
  • IMG_3709 : Saint Helena and the True Cross, c1520, South Germany, McGill University Library. Independent miniature on parchment. Scene of the pilgrimage of St. Helen in the Holy Land around 327. Helen and Constantine, “staring at a seated figure who has just been resurrected with the help of the miraculous power of the True Cross”.
  • IMG_3711 : The arrest of Christ and the Kiss of Judas, c1235-1250, Augsbourg, McGill University Library. Folio from a manuscript psalter. 
  • IMG_3713 : Adoration of the Magi, c1225-1270, Paris, Musée des Beaux-arts de Montréal. Folio from a manuscript psalter, a Book of Hours or a breviary.
  • IMG_3715, 3717 : Breviary (extracts), c1300, Bruges?, McGill University Library. Folio from a manuscript breviary in latin.
  • IMG_3718 : Psalm 110, c1480, Pays-Bas, McGill University Library. Folio of a psalter-breviary manuscript in Latin for the use of Brigittines (Abbey of Mariënwater). “An exuberant decoration characterizes the manuscripts, such as this foliage border in burnished gold on a reserved background and strewn with dots of gold. These foliage are peopled with plant motifs (hawthorn buds, foliage, strawberries, bunches of grapes), a deer lying in the lower part, and a fox with a red cape in the right border. Textual marks indicate that this book was intended for a female audience.”

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