The Hours of Joanna I of Castile is one of the most lavish Flemish manuscripts from the Netherlands. The codex, also known as the London Rothschild Hours, was written and illuminated in the early years of the 16th century and it features 75 remarkably illuminated full-page miniatures by the hand of two of the most renown artists of Flemish tradition, namely Gerard Horenbout and Alexander Bening.
The Hours of Joanna I of Castile: Gerard Horenbout and Alexander Bening
Written in Latin this manuscript exhibits an outstanding iconographic apparatus created by the likes of Gerard Horenbout, also known as the Master of James IV of Scotland, and the Maximilian Master identified with Alexander Bening – both exceptional Flemish artists.
While to the former are attributed the Hours of the Cross, the Hours of the Virgin, and perhaps the Calendar, to the latter are attributed the miniatures of the Suffrages of the saints. Both artists show attention and mastery of the three-dimensional realism, their illustrations exhibit a great sophistication.
The Recipient: a Spanish Woman
The several references to St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist – both Joanna I’s namesakes – have lead scholars to assume that the manuscript was made for a woman, member of the Spanish royal family, namely the figure of Joanna I, Queen of Castile and Aragona (1479-1555), also known as Joanna the Mad, wife of Philip the Handsome.
Although it remains uncertain who the commissioner of the work was, it has been suggested that the codex might have been commissioned by Margaret of Austria (1480-1530), Princess of Asturias and Duchess of Savoy.
Possession of the Rothschild Family
It is uncertain what happen to the manuscript after it belonged to Joanna, as it appears there is no evidence of it for the following centuries. What is certain is that at some point the manuscript found its way into the collection of Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, a member of the nobility of the Austrian empire, a collector and a politician, who decided to bequeath it to the British Museum.
The London Rothschild Hours displays a beautiful example of Gothic script, featuring two forms of r, s, and a, the half-uncial d, 8-shaped g, abbreviations, and bitings.
Unfortunately, like many medieval manuscripts, the Hours of Joanna of Castile lost its original binding and now features a brown calf binding with gold tooling probably dating to the 18th century.
- Images courtesy of the British Library
We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Hours of Joanna I of Castile, Joanna the Mad": Libro de horas de Juana I de Castilla facsimile edition, published by M. Moleiro Editor, 2005Request Info / Price