Leaf from the Hours of Louis XII thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Request to view at the Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F , Case BECK2, Shelf 27

Leaf from the Hours of Louis XII

Manuscript Cutting
ca. 1498 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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).


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Ink on parchment with watercolour and gold
Brief Description
Manuscript leaf from the Hours of Louis XII, including Nativity scene by Jean Bourdichon, France (Tours), c.1498.
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.
Dimensions
  • Estimate height: 24.2cm
  • Estimate width: 26.3cm
Dimensions taken from Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800, C.M. Kauffmann, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1973
Marks and Inscriptions
DEUS I[N] ADIUTORIU[M] MEU[M] I[N]TENDE D[OMI]NE AD ADIUVANDU[M] ME [FESTINA] (Psalm 69, verse 2.)
Credit line
Purchased with the assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund and Art Fund
Object history
Made c.1498 for Louis XII, King of France.
Subjects depicted
Summary
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).
Bibliographic References
  • 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/
Collection
Accession Number
E.949-2003

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record createdJanuary 16, 2004
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