"The Grimani Breviary is the most elaborate and arguably the greatest work in the history of Flemish manuscript illumination. Purchased by Cardinal Domenico Grimani by 1520 for the enormous sum of five hundred ducats, it brought together the leading illuminators of the time, including the Master of James IV of Scotland (probably Gerard Horenbout), Alexander Bening (the Master of the First Prayer Book of Maximilian), the Master of the David Scenes in the Grimani Breviary, Simon Bening and Gerard David. More important, each of these artists created for this manuscript some of his most exquisite and original miniatures". This is the way in which Thomas Kren of Getty Museums has accurately described what is certainly the most important and yet least researched Flemish illuminated manuscript to ever be produced. Despite the tremendous quality and stunning detail of the manuscript, it remains a mystery to many as scholars have not been allowed to view and study the spectacular achievements in painting that characterize this masterpiece.
A Monumental and Unrivaled Witness of the Splendor of Renaissance Flemish Art
Totaling an entirety of 1,662 pages, the Grimani Breviary is considered to be a monumental witness to the splendor of Flemish art produced during the Renaissance. It truly illuminates this important period of history. Perhaps one of the most extraordinary features of this manuscript is the choice of motifs, which alternate between religious and lay themes. This manuscript, which contains 110 wonderful miniatures, was intended not only for use in the Church, but also in the private home as well. Throughout the Middle Ages, the breviary was considered to be one of the most important manuscripts that could be owned. Such illuminated manuscripts contained daily devotions and were painstakingly and lovingly crafted. As such, they were commissioned by only the most powerful and wealthiest families and individuals. The breviary was an absolute essential for the celebration of the Catholic Mass and featured a monthly calendar to assist in the determination of important feast days. These magnificent calendars were illustrated with stunning scenes that were deemed appropriate for each month. Commissioned by the most powerful and wealthiest rulers throughout Europe, breviaries revealed important scenes from everyday life as well as religious life during the Middle Ages. Perhaps one of the greatest delights of the Grimani Breviary is the astonishing variety and range it displays. Rich in detail, the Grimani Breviary is a complete joy to the scholar who yearns to understand more about this important time period in the Renaissance.
The full-page illuminations of the Breviary present full-color scenes of seasonal landscapes and rustic life, inviting the viewer to witness daily activities throughout the seasons. Featuring scenes that include feasts, hunting parties and peasants and shepherds as they work in the field, the Grimani Breviary offers an intimate look into everyday life of the wealthy and powerful Flemish bourgeoisie.
A Close Connection with the Très Riches Heures
"The Grimani Breviary represents a pinnacle in the achievement of the Master of James IV of Scotland, whose miniatures are among the easiest to distinguish as a group [...] The Master of James IV did not just copy from the hundred-year old calendar illuminations by the Limbourg brothers in the Très Riches Heures [...] but transformed their courtly and refined art into something more vigorous, full-blooded, and earthy". (from "Illuminating the Renaissance: The Triumph of Flemish Manuscript Painting in Europe", by Thomas Kren and Scot McKendrick.)
The original volume of the Grimani Breviary is in crimson velvet and elaborately adorned with silver-gilt covers, framed by a relief border that is embellished with a running vine stem and four roundels. The inner frame of each cover features additional corner roundels and a large central portrait medallion. The front cover presents a portrait of Cardinal Domenico Grimani while the back cover features a portrait of Doge Antonio Grimani.
We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "The Grimani Breviary": Breviario Grimani facsimile edition, published by Salerno Editrice, 2009