Trivulzio Book of Hours (ca. 1465)

This medieval manuscript measures only 9 cm by 13 cm - and yet, it contains 28 pagefilling miniatures with exquisite detail. It is a true masterpiece of Flemish miniature art from the fifteenth century.

This page offers a brief introduction to the manuscript. If you prefer to view the digitized manuscript straight away, click on the link in this picture:

Provenance

This exquisite manuscript was produced in Flanders in ca. 1465, probably in Bruges and Ghent, by several masters who each supplied miniatures to the rich program of illumination: Lieven van Lathem from Antwerp, Simon Marmion from Valenciennes and an illuminator from Ghent who is called the Master of Mary of Burgundy.

The manuscript used to belong to the collection of the princes of Trivulzio in Milan (hence the name), but by the early twentieth century its whereabouts were no longer known.

Unique donation to the KB

The manuscript was presumed lost until in 2001 an anonymous donor got in touch with the Koninklijke Bibliotheek. Subsequent negotiations resulted in the most costly gift ever presented to a Dutch cultural institution.

The miniature of pentecost

The borders in this manuscript enliven the religious scenes and delight the viewer. At the side margin of this depiction of Pentecost, for example, the artist has depicted, with careful mimetic exactitude, a rare hoopoe bird. Even today this bird is said to portend rain, although in the image it seems to portend the Holy Spirit. In the lower right margin, the miniaturist has depicted a harpy [Latin: harpyia) , a rapacious monster with the head of a woman, the claws of a lion, and the wings of a bird of pray. While this figure thematizes the power and danger of women, it also presents a word play: the harpy plays a harp. Further thematizing the power of women is the figure group at the lower left. This woman who plays the fiddle and rides her man may be Phyllis, who rode her husband Aristotle like a horse.

As a final step in painting this miniature, the artist laid on extremely delicate gold highlights, probably using a brush with only two or three bristles. The radiance around the dove at the top is so fine as to be almost ethereal.

More pages from Trivulzio

View the entire digitized manuscript here: