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Jean de Carpentin's Book of Hours

Jean de Carpentin's Book of Hours

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In the 1470s, one of the most innovative artists working in Bruges illuminated a Book of Hours for Jean Carpentin, lord of Gravile and prominent citizen of Normandy. Known as the Master of the Dresden Prayer Book after one of his other masterpieces, this artist and members of his workshop enriched the pages of Carpentin’s manuscript with miniatures, historiated initials and boldly coloured borders in which human figures, monsters and monkeys are framed by twisting branches of acanthus. The manuscript’s rich programme of illumination includes 22 full-page miniatures, 42 historiated initials, and 64 borders incorporating biblical and apocryphal subjects as well as the Master’s characteristically stocky peasants engaged in quotidian (and sometimes profane) activities.

The figures that populate the Master’s borders are busy with activities that relate to the adjacent miniatures. Many of the borders contain a sensitive development of the miniature’s themes. In the borders adjacent to the miniature of Pilate washing his hands, Pilate’s wife is tempted by the devil and a carpenter begins to fashion the cross; opposite, Christ is tormented as he carries the cross, and in the margin Judas repents, commits suicide, and is tormented by a simian winged devil.  On other pages, the Master’s stocky peasants carry wood, fight monsters and play games seemingly oblivious to the dramatic narratives unfolding nearby.

Until the late 1990s the Carpentin Hours was virtually unknown to scholarship. The present study is the first detailed assessment of this important manuscript, which is a magnificent demonstration of the Dresden Master’s wit, invention and technical virtuosity.

  • By Alixe Bovey

    248 pages, hardback

    255 x 255, 120 colour illustrations
    ISBN: 978 1 903470 95 4

  • In the press

    "For a book to please all of the people of the time is never an easy task, but this is a book for book-lovers of every kind, whether scholars or the general public"—Cassone, March 2012

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