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Manuscript cutting - Leaf from the Hours of Louis XII
  • Leaf from the Hours of Louis XII
    Bourdichon, Jean, born 1457 - died 1521
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Leaf from the Hours of Louis XII

  • Object:

    Manuscript cutting

  • Place of origin:

    France (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1498 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Bourdichon, Jean, born 1457 - died 1521 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Ink on parchment with watercolour and gold

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with the assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund and Art Fund

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This leaf featuring a miniature painting of The Nativity originally formed part of a richly decorated prayer book, the Hours of Louis XII, king of France (r. 1498-1515). The artist, Jean Bourdichon, was official painter to four successive French kings, including Louis XII. In The Nativity he has rendered divine light in gold, but has used a whitish-yellow for the earthy light of Joseph's lamp. This dramatic use of lighting illustrates the belief that the newly born Christ Child 'radiated such an ineffable light and splendour, that the sun was not comparable to it, nor did the candle . . . give any light at all, the divine light totally annihilating the material light'.
Leaves from this manuscript have survived in various collections around the world including the British Library, the John Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Free Library of Philadelphia and the Musée du Louvre in Paris (for full study and details, see Kren 2005).

Physical description

Manuscript leaf with a full-page miniature of the Nativity, introducing Prime in the Hours of the Virgin. The text begins on the frame of the miniature, which would have been painted on the recto, and continues on the verso of the leaf. The verso has a partial border with daisies, acanthus leaves and a butterfly on gold ground, as well as decorated initials including one enclosing an insect, and line-fillers in the shape of logs. Rubrics have been written in blue ink.

Place of Origin

France (made)


ca. 1498 (made)


Bourdichon, Jean, born 1457 - died 1521 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Ink on parchment with watercolour and gold

Marks and inscriptions

O God, come to my assistance; O Lord, make haste to help me.
Psalm 69, verse 2.


Height: 24.3 cm, Width: 17 cm

Object history note

Made c.1498 for Louis XII, King of France.

Descriptive line

Manuscript leaf from the Hours of Louis XII, including Nativity scene by Jean Bourdichon, France (Tours), c.1498.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Burgio, L., Clark, R, J, H., and Hark, R., "The Bourdichon Nativity: A Masterpiece of light and colour", in V&A Conservation Journal Autumn 2009/10, number 58, pp.36-37.
A Masterpiece Reconstructed: the Hours of Louis XII, ed. by Thomas Kren with Marke Evans, exhibition catalogue, J. Paul Getty Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum, 2005-2006.
To read more about this manuscript, see: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/t/the-book-of-hours-louis-xii/


Parchment; Ink; Pigments


Illumination; Writing

Subjects depicted



Manuscript cutting; Manuscripts; Medieval and renaissance


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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