Jean Bourdichon - Book of Hours, about 1515-1520

Jean Bourdichon (about 1457 - 1521, Tours)

Book of Hours, about 1515-1520

Ink, colors, and gold on parchment , 16.5 x 10.5 cm (6 1/2 x 4 1/8 in.)


Court painter to four kings of France, Jean Bourdichon was best known for manuscript illumination of exquisite refinement and cosmopolitan sophistication. His books of hours mark the transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. Such richly decorated prayer books were favored by royalty, nobility, and the rich merchant classes who continued to prefer manuscripts to printed books as aids to their daily devotions.

The Book of Hours in the Gardner Museum has remained virtually unstudied. A late work by Bourdichon, it is characterized by ambitious Italianate frames which enclose the main illuminations. The book nonetheless remains intimate and private, the delicately colored scenes compelling close inspection.

Source: Myra Orth, "Book of Hours," in Eye of the Beholder, edited by Alan Chong et al. (Boston: ISGM and Beacon Press, 2003): 135.