The Hours of Henry IV of France is one of the most superb examples of Renaissance from Paris, France. The codex, also known as Libro de Horas de Enrique IV de Francia, was written and illuminated between the end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th century. Featuring remarkably illuminated 60 full-page miniatures, 16 small pen-and-ink miniatures, and countless foliage motifs, this codex is an outstanding example of French Renaissance.
The Hours of Hnery IV: a Gleaming Iconographic Apparatus
Written in Latin, the Hours of Henry IV of France exhibits an outstanding iconographic apparatus, both elaborate and gleaming, for each leave of the codex bears a gilded ground. A remarkable and rare element of the decorative project is the use of the letters of the alphabet to fill the borders.
Another surprising feature of the manuscript’s iconography is the color scheme applied on the outstandingly illuminated large initials for – as opposed to the custom of the period – they are white with purple highlights.
Jean Pichore and his Grisaille Technique
The iconographic cycle, with over 60 full-page miniatures echoing the stories from the New Testament, is a beautiful example of the grisaille technique which entails the use of different shades of grey.
As a result of the study of the illustrations, art scholars have suggested that the style of the miniatures belongs to that of the atelier of Jean Pichore, who in his technique was influenced by Jean Bourdichon and Jean Poyer.
A Beautiful Example of Humanistic Script
The Hours of Henry IV displays a beautiful example of humanistic script, formally known as littera humanistica rotunda, which in an attempt to restore clarity after the Gothic script features less abbreviations. Some additional features are ligatures and the use of the long s whose descender does not extend below the baseline.
A Regal Life for a Regal Manuscript
The life of the manuscript is certainly a regal one as, over the centuries, the manuscript became possession of cardinal Charles de Bourbon (1523-1590) and Henry IV (1553-1610), who was so enthralled by the codex that he had his coat of arms added on the front and back covers.
The Hours of Henry IV – Henry IV being one of his later owners – has been treasured in the royal collection of the Louvre Palace first, and from 1720 it has become part of the National Bibliothque de France.
The codex, like many medieval manuscripts, no longer features its original binding and has come down to us in a Red Morocco binding featuring the coats of arms of Charles de Bourbon and of Henry IV, bearing the following inscription: H. IIII PATRIS PATRIAE, VIRTVTVM RESTITVTORIS.
- Images courtesy of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France
We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Hours of Henry IV of France": Libro de horas de Enrique IV de Francia y III de Navarra facsimile edition, published by M. Moleiro Editor, 2017Request Info / Price