A testament to nineteenth-century bibliophilia, the Book of Hours of Bishop Morgades is a compilation of pages from diverse sources assembled to create an object of visual delight. It features four full-page and twenty-one smaller miniatures in a text richly ornamented with border decorations.
Although the collection of fifty-five leaves is called a book of hours, it functions more as an album of miniatures derived from different devotional books to create a picture book with fragmented text. Such a curious assembly thus renders the Latin text incoherent: it serves no viable devotional use.
A Miscellany of Miniatures
Made as a gift for Bishop Morgades between 1891and 1899, the "codex" began as a collection of leaves extracted from a manuscript that appears to be a late fifteenth- or early sixteenth-century product of the Ghent-Bruges school (fols. 1-10, 12, 16, 37-55). Three groups of pages were added to the book, the first two of which date from around 1400-1410 and feature the work of an Iberian artist and Netherlandish painters (fols. 33-36), while the final group consists of pages with marginal illuminations from a Netherlandish manuscript of the fifteenth century (fols. 11, 13-15, 17-32).
A Miniature Attributed to a Catalan Illuminator
The most remarkable aspect of the manuscript's art is the presence of a full-page miniature of Saint John the Evangelist by Rafael Destorrents (fol. 33v), a Spanish illuminator active around 1400. His work is in the International Style of the period: the saint is presented as a gently swaying figure with delicate facial features and wavy hair isolated against a patterned background.
Copious Marginal Decoration
Many of the manuscript's pages include either painted borders or vignettes in the margins that depict a range of subjects, including domestic chores, flora and fauna, fantastic creatures, jewels, and ornamental vessels in niches, as well as fictive works of art.
A Glorious Confection
The resulting visual anthology was termed a book of hours based on the fragments of text included. The fine, Gothic Texualis script is handsomely enhanced with decorated initials and trompe-l'oeil floral motifs. Although the conditions guiding the production of this codex are not ideally suited to modern standards of conservation, the book offers glimpses into the manuscripts from which its leaves derive.
Bishop José Morgades i Gili (1826-1901) received this creation in a beautiful gold-embroidered velvet binding. An important patron of Catalan artistic heritage, the bishop was instrumental in the foundation of the Museu Episcopal de Vic, which became the manuscript’s current home.