minima maxima sunt

The Small things are the Great things; as in a grain of mustard seed.

Archive for the tag “book of hours”

Obsecro Te

After the Gospel readings it was common to have a set of prayers to the Virgin Mary. I have completed the first and longest of the two prayers. This is the Obsecro Te, which translates as “I beseech thee”. Devotion and prayers to The Virgin Mary date back to the earliest years of Christianity and so it’s not surprising to find these in a book of hours. The prayers to the Virgin were sometimes personalized toward the intended owner of the book of hours. I have opted to represent the prayer as translated.

Read more…

Reading from Luke

Gospel reading from Luke. The Evangelical symbol of the bull belongs to Luke. Stuck to a more traditional book of hours scheme for the reading on this one. Lots of gold mixed with vines and wildlife.

December

Have a few updates I’m hoping to put out today. The last month of the calendar I completed about a weeks ago. I was very excited with this last calendar entry for a few reasons. I was looking forward to getting into new sections of a book of hours, (the gospel readings). December and Christmas are favorite times of the year and I had a lot of ideas for the art. I also planned to do some kind of Saint or Icon referencing the incarnation.

Really the first time to try drawing a Saint or human figure in the book. I know I have mentioned several times that I am a hack at this. Not really a refined artist, my calligraphy is not that great….. But drawing hands… yikes! I was happy with the Virgin Mary that I drew but those hands took several attempts to get right. I am satisfied with the final and hope this gets easier as I do plan to have more of this.

Ending the calendar I had planned for a while to have a winter scene with cardinals and snow. A simple scene of winter.

August Thistle and Rose

August was a re-visit to the Flemish art style. Flowers with shadows make the panel art seem to pop out of the page. My first try at this was in February with Oak leaves.

So the top picture is obviously a rose surrounded by gold foil, the side panel… Are doodle flowers and I’m not sure if they could be tied to an actual type of flower in existence.

On the second page is Thistle surrounded by gold and on the side panel are Geranium. These grew wild in Alaska and I had a few of these planted in my yard when I lived there. They came back every year.

July. Ivy and Peacock Feathers

For July I looked back on January. My first attempts in my book of hours were full of trial and error. I revisited what I envisioned and here is the result. I will probably continue to re-do the first part of the year in the second half to see where I grew.

Ivy with gold leaves and a few animals. I used watercolor pencils for the peacock feathers and took a quick lesson on you tube on how to make them. Overall very happy with July and seeing my progress.

First page had a huge blunder on one date where I put the Saint on the wrong day. Blotted out to cover and shows. Will start focusing on the illuminated letters going forward. I figure that once I complete the calendar and move into other parts of the hours I will allow more room for this and have some fun.

Second page had no big blunders. Mixing the gold leaves with a few greens, red berries, a bird and a snail.

February and March

February calendar went a little better. Still had a few mistakes but didn’t need to patch anything like I did in January.

I tried a few different styles in February. The first page I tried to follow the look of a Flemish Book of Hours. Focus on objects shadowed to allow them to pop out of the page. Flemish book of hours often used natural objects like flowers, plants, vegetables and even animals like fish shadowed on a flat color background.

The second half I tried at a more Celtic approach. Found a design n the web that I thought would fit in the side panel and went from there.  I also took a different approach to applying the gold foil to keep it more flat and avoid the embossed look I ended up with in January.  Because the paper is rough I still don’t get a smooth shine but I am satisfied with what I get here.

March went even better than February, still working on the calligraphy, and seems I always get one date wrong and have to redo. Regardless, I felt much more at ease completing March as the process is becoming familiar.

The pictures this month were inspired by art I saw while in Mexico recently. The suite at the resort we stayed at was right on a pond with fish, turtles, frogs and iguana. I suppose this is the first month where I had a theme that seems consistent. January was just doodling, February had oak leaves timing it together, but March is all about the fish pond.

So a little about the calendar. A book of hours started with a calendar noting the various feasts and memorials of the church. Seems like there was always a day around the corner to remember, celebrate and maybe even prepare a special meal for. There are letters next to the calendar days which allowed the calendar to function as a perpetual calendar. These are dominical letters. A simple but brilliant idea. By adding these letters, from a to g for the days of the week, a person only needed to know what letter aligned with Sunday for the year they were in, then the rest of the letters would follow and they could know which weekdays each date corresponded to. For instance if Sunday (Domingo) this year aligns with “c” then every date with a “c” next to it is a Sunday for this year. That means that “d” will note Monday’s and so on.

My New Project

After years of enjoying illuminated manuscripts I have decided to make one of my own. Way out of my league of course, as my writing/calligraphy is terrible, never used gold foil before and,  well, to be honest just about everything is a hack on this. I decided to do a book of hours, so a little research to get things right and to also update information. I want it to be true to the history but with a little post modern thrown in. image

Using some traditional and some new types of media. Gouache, gel pens, ink of India and a calligraphy set, imitation gold foil, a blank journal with leather binding from Hobby Lobby. Calendar dates are from the General Roman Calendar online and some help from the annotated book of hours, also online. And of course reviewing pictures of several illuminated manuscript studies and facsimiles I have.

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For my first month of January there was a lot of trial and error. I actually patched over a few sections to correct mistakes and cover failed attempts at the art. The adhesive for the gold foil I laced on a bit too heavy so it looks more embossed. I had a better time doing February which I will post soon with some information on the calendars in a book of hours.
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Book of hours of Bénigne Serre, 1524

Several months ago I discovered a few places that will make replicas of Illuminated Manuscripts for a very reasonable price. Below is an example of my second purchase from one of these sites. These are printed pages and have no gold foil that you would find with a more expensive facsimile, but they are complete manuscripts, beautifully bound and covered by hand and they allow one to get a sense of reading, or just looking, at a book of hours.image

In the picture above I have the book cover shown. Decoration and a leather cover on it that will still need to rest as it was recently oiled. The pages, which you cannot see, were given gilded edges. The replica is of the Book of Hours of Bénigne Serre:

“A book of hours following the liturgical custom of Rome, with a calendar containing a selection of saints for Langres. The manuscript was illuminated and dated in 1524 by a Master of Bénigne Serre, who was known by the name of his client, a highly-ranked official of the King of Burgundy. The artist was a hitherto unknown illuminator from the circle of the “1520s The Hours Workshop,” which framed the miniatures with Renaissance architecture or added naturalistic flowers and animals to borders. This manuscript contains a number of unusual images, e.g., for the Lauds of the Office of the Virgin, the meeting of Joachim and Anna at the city gate of Jerusalem replaces the usual image of the Visitation. In the 18th century, the manuscript was owned by the family Bretagne of Dijon.” More information on this Book of Hours and contents.
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Above is a text page from this manuscript. The writing is in Latin and all the pages in this book have excellent designs showing flowers, animals, people and places in the side bars. Below I have a few examples of some of the full page illustrations found in this book. These would normally indicate the beginning of a section of texts, prayers or psalms. The first is the adoration of the Magi from the “Hours of the Virgin”.  Joseph is in the door of the building behind, Mary and the Christ child in center and the Magi on the right.
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This next picture shows a much darker scene as Death, riding a bull, slays a man. The text starts the Office of the Dead for Vespers. These are prayers for those in Purgatory.  The text follows from Psalm 116

“1 My heart is aflame, so graciously the Lord listens to my entreaty; 2 the Lord, who grants me audience when I invoke his name. 3 Death’s noose about me, caught in the snares of the grave, ever I found distress and grief at my side, 4 till I called upon the Lord, Save me, Lord, in my peril. 5 Merciful the Lord our God is, and just, and full of pity; 6 he cares for simple hearts, and to me, when I lay humbled, he brought deliverance. 7 Return, my soul, where thy peace lies; the Lord has dealt kindly with thee; 8 he has saved my life from peril, banished my tears, kept my feet from falling. 9 Mine to walk at ease, enjoying the Lord’s presence, in the land of the living.”

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This last picture shows Mary as a young girl with St. Anne. This comes in the end of the book in what are called the “Suffrages”. These are prayers to Saints, or rather petitions to those saints to keep us in their prayers. The text in the picture translates: “A heavenly blessing entered into Anne, through whom the Virgin Mary was born for us.”
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For more information on reproductions you can visit this website.
Golden Gryphon Productions

Strange Illumination

Giant Snails

One of the fun things about Illuminated Manuscripts are finding the little details hidden in the art. Additions of strange creatures, or the use of animals or people to form letters. In the background there are sometimes many strange and fascinating images that came from the mind of the Middle Ages. In this first image, which I couldn’t find more about, there are huge snails and people living in snail shells. In fact it appears to be a fanciful version of the Nativity or a Madonna and Child. In the snail shell on the left it looks like the “Familia Sagrada” or Holy Family. I was reminded of a movie my children loved called The Neverending Story, where one of the characters rides on the back of a giant racing snail.

From the Hours of Catherine of Cleves

In this next example we see beehives which have been incorporated into the illumination. This comes from the Hours of Catherine of Cleves. This famous book of hours has several combinations of nature being used to fill in the art. You can find page borders using Salmon linked together, and large feathers, and bean pods. The Hours of Catherine, like many of the other great Illuminated Manuscripts, depicts many beautiful scenes from the Sacred Scriptures, of Saints, Martyrs, and on the darker side depictions of Hell and Demons.

Humor isn’t lacking either in the mind of the artist from these times. The imagination of the artist was clearly open to all sorts of ideas which were able to be poured into these beautiful sacred books. In this last example we see jousting rabbits.

The Breviary of Renaud de Bar, Metz 1302-1303

This scene is found in a Breviary, which is a more complete version of a Book of Hours, which were used by Clergy. These books contained the Liturgy of the Hours as well as prayers, psalms and hymns for use in the Liturgy. The Book of Hours was really a layman’s version of the Breviary, and in both there are many great examples of classic art and illumination.

What I find most interesting about these and other examples of strange illumination is that the little details that seem to be outside of the serious nature of a religious text find their way into the art. In a time which has been accused of being intolerant, especially in the area of religion, it seems to be out of place. And yet in the very texts themselves we see artistic freedom that would go beyond the utilitarian nature of publishing today. Granted, with the advent of the printing press, books which took years to make could be mass produced and made available for a fraction of the price. The price was a decline in illumination and sadly the use of art and text today is found mostly in advertisement.

Augustus

August from the Très riches heures du duc de Berry

August was originally the sixth month of the year and it’s Roman name was Sextilis. It became the eighth month when January and February were added around 700 BC and its name was changed to Augustus in 8 BC by Julius Caesar.

Augustus was the first Emperor and founder of the Roman Empire, but he was never referred to as Emperor, choosing the term Princeps Civitasor “First Citizen”. It was during the reign of Augustus that the “Roman Peace” began and is during this time that the Incarnation occurs with the Nativity of Christ which is figured to be anywhere from 4 BC to 9 AD.

Château d’Etampes today

Our picture from the Duke of Berry’s famous Book of Hours, shows a classic summer scene with a Middle Age twist. The Château d’Etampes takes the scene in the background, rising into a blue summer sky, in the foreground a company of travellers or possibly a hunting party? Leading the company is a Falconer. And in the center, between all this we see a group of people enjoying a nice swim in the cool waters of a lake. This is interesting, to me, because it is another proof against one of those “myths” about the middle ages which claims that people who lived then didn’t take baths and therefore smelled bad.

The feasts on the General Roman Calendar celebrated during the month of August are:
1. Alphonsus Liguori, Memorial
2. Eusebius of Vercelli; Peter Julian Eymard, Opt. Mem.
4. John Vianney, Memorial
5. Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday
6. Transfiguration, Feast
7. Sixtus II and companions; Cajetan, Opt. Mem.
8. Dominic, Memorial
9. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Opt. Mem.
10. Lawrence, Feast
11. Clare, Memorial
12. Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday
13. Pontian and Hippolytus, Opt. Mem.
14. Maximilian Kolbe, Memorial
15. Assumption, Solemnity
16. Stephen of Hungary, Opt. Mem.
19. Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday
20. Bernard, Memorial
21. Pius X, Sunday
22. Queenship of Mary, Memorial
23. Rose of Lima, Opt. Mem.
24. Bartholomew, Feast
25. Louis of France; Joseph Calasanz, Opt. Mem.
26. Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday
27. Monica, Memorial
28. Augustine, Memorial
29. Martyrdom of John the Baptist, Memorial

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