Willibrord founded the bishopric of Utrecht in 722. The Cathedral (Domkerk) in Utrecht was the seat of that bishopric, which covered most of the Northern Netherlands throughout the middle ages. In the fifteenth century Utrecht had more than 20 monasteries and religious houses. Some of these monasteries produced manuscripts, but the commercial production of manuscripts far outstripped production in religious houses. Some of the finest Dutch illuminators are associated with the city of Utrecht, including the Master of Evert Zoudenbalch and the Master of Gijsbrecht van Brederode.
Kaart van Utrecht. From: De stadsplattegronden van Jacob van Deventer, cop. 1993.
Masters of Otto van Moerdrecht
One of the Masters of Otto van Moerdrecht—who worked in Utrecht before moving to Flanders—painted both the Christ Hanging on the Cross (fol. 61v) as well as the Pentecost (fol. 79v). Typical of his style is the use of vivid colours and large amounts of gold, and fantastical landscapes with lollypop trees.
These masters mostly occupied themselves with the illumination of Books of Hours for private use, such as KB 135 K 11. Fol. 56v of this Book of Hours has a full-page miniature with Pentecost, in which the figures are painted with a rather dark palette. The Christ on the Cross in the same manuscript (fol. 89v) contains only three figures in a narrow space, while the miniature with the same subject in the Bout manuscript contains seven figures in a very deep landscape.
Moreover the Masters of Otto van Moerdrecht also contributed to the illumination of a two-volume Bible (KB 78 D 38 I and II). In their historiated initial for Genesis we see Christ in a landscape made of stylized trees and mountains, which are similar to those in the Bout manuscript. When the reader opened the Bout manuscript to the beginning of the Hours of the Holy Cross, he would be immediately confronted with colour: pink, green, red and purple paint and ink, as well as gold. The heaven behind Christ is made of gleaming polished gold, detailed with tiny pin pricks in a design that makes it seems that rays of light are emanating from Christ.
Fol. 61v. Masters of Otto van Moerdrecht, Christ on the Cross
Fol. 79v. Masters of Otto van Moerdrecht, Pentecost
KB 135 K 11, fol. 56v. Masters of Otto van Moerdrecht, Pentecost
KB 135 K 11, fol. 89v. Masters of Otto van Moerdrecht, Christ on the cross
Master of Gijsbrecht van Brederode
The miniature accompanying the most important text in the book, the Hours of the Virgin Mary, was executed by the Master of Gijsbrecht van Brederode, named after the Book of Hours that he executed for the Dean of Utrecht Cathedral of that name. Together with the Master of Evert Zoudenbalch, the Master of Gijsbrecht van Brederode was the most important Utrecht illuminator in the middle of the fifteenth century. The oeuvre of this artist that has come down to us is not very large and consists of miniatures and historiated initials in about ten Books of Hours. Some of these were executed by pupils who coppied his style. Most of these Books of Hours are now kept in foreign collections, including the manuscript after which he is named (Liège, University Library, Ms. Wittert 13). Among the works by the Master of Gijsbrecht van Brederode, the miniature in the Bout manuscript is charming in its design and accomplished in its execution.