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Flemish Book of Hours

Ink, tempera and gold on vellum
Flanders, Ghent, ca. 1450-60 

The Case Wastern Reserve University Book of Hours comprises 132 folios with a Ghent calendar in Flemish and written in black and red inks. The feast day of St. Bavo, patron saint of Ghent, is noted in red for October 1st. The remainder of the manuscript appears in Latin. A sequentiae of the Gospels follows the calendar with the Obsecro te, domina, a special prayer to the Virgin. At the heart of the manuscript is the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, more commonly called the Hours of the Virgin. This is a standard series of prayers, psalms, lessons, antiphons, responses and hymns intended for recitation by the owner at set intervals. In 14th and 15th century books of hours, the texts of the Hours of the Virgin typically feature minor local variations according to the diocese of their intended use. The Case Wastern Reserve University hours adheres to the Use of Rome, which is standard for 15th century Flemish books of hours. This is followed by a Litany of the Saints. The primary focus of the books decoration is four large decorated initials within the Hours of the Virgin. These initials are illuminated in a palette of deep blues, reds, pinks, and orange with burnished gold leaf and in-filled with a scrolling ivy-leaf motif. The texts are surrounded with bar borders and the margins with delicate oak-leaf patterns occasionally interspersed with fruit or flowers. The Case Wastern Reserve University book of hours was undoubtedly made for a Ghent patron for use in that city. However, the style and palette of the manuscripts illumination does not preclude it being made in northeastern France, perhaps Amiens, for its Flemish patron.

Flemish Book of Hours
Stephen Fliegel
Associate Curator of Medieval Art
Cleveland Museum of Art

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