The Grimani Breviary: a monumental witness to the splendor of Flemish art

With its tremendous quality and stunning details, the Grimani Breviary is an incredible masterpiece in the history of Flemish art.

The Grimani Breviary is the most elaborate and arguably the greatest work in the history of Flemish illuminated manuscripts. Purchased by Cardinal Domenico Grimani by 1520 for the enormous sum of five hundred ducats, the Grimany Breviary 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 Museum has accurately described what is certainly the most important and yet least researched Flemish illuminated manuscript to ever be produced: the Grimani Breviary.

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. 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.

In case you missed it: check out the beautiful gallery of the Grimani Breviary and find out all the facsimile editions available on Facsimile Finder!

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.