14th - 16th Century Gallery - Painting & Decorative Arts Level 1, NGV International
Mediaeval or Renaissance illuminated manuscripts combine hand-written text with decorative borders and pictures. The small images are often enhanced with burnished gold that reflects light and literally illuminates the page. Manuscripts were written and decorated by scribes and illuminators in monastic and secular production houses, and are typically produced on parchment (prepared animal skin). The Aspremont-Kievraing Hours was made in north-eastern France around 1300. The work comprises two volumes: the first is a Psalter, which is now housed in the Bodleian Library, in Oxford, and this volume is a Book of Hours, a type of personal, private prayer book that became increasingly popular in the late thirteenth century. The only clue to the identity of its makers is found in the Oxford Psalter, which includes an image of a bearded figure holding a scroll that reads ‘Nicolas [Nicolaus] who illuminated the book made me’. The Aspremont-Kievraing Hours takes its title from its two original owners, the knight Joffroy d’Aspremont and his wife, Isabelle de Kievraing, who were members of the Lorraine nobility. The patrons are represented throughout the book by their coats of arms and small portraits, and by numerous references to courtly life. The pages are highly embellished with decorated initials, trailing vegetation and ornamental marginalia depicting grotesques and drolleries. In this page opening, the illuminated page on the right introduces the First lesson at Matins with an image of the Nativity inside the initial ‘P’. The two patrons can be seen kneeling in prayer at the bottom of the page, which is surrounded by a richly decorated Gothic border.