The Livre d’Heures de Maria Stuart is the smallest book of hours known, and one of the most beautiful examples of Northern Renaissance illumination from the centre-west of France. The codex was written and illuminated in the first quarter of the 16th century in the town of Tours. With its 14 beautifully illuminated full-page miniatures and more than 1300 golden initials, the Livre d’heures de Maria Stuart is a superb example of the marvelous production of the School of Rouen.
The codex, created between 1510 and 1515, takes its name by Mary Stuart (1542-1587), Queen of Scots, who inherited it as a consequence to the death of her husband.
Foliated Border Decoration of the Livre d’Heures de Maria Stuart
The iconography and decoration of the manuscript are stunningly made. Every page contains 21 lines of text, which features countless golden initials on colored background, and framed foliate bar borders in paneled form, featuring sprouting flowers and insects.
The border decoration contains beautifully depicted dolphins and elaborated candelabra-like structures. The manuscript presents 14 miniatures depicted using the golden paintbrush technique in a context of landscape or detailed interior.
Alternatively, the borders are often decorated with dolphins and candelabras. The miniatures depict popular episodes from the life of Christ, ranging from the birth of the Savior in the stable to his death on the cross.
Commissioner Francis I, King of France
Smallest prayer book known to date, the book of hours of Mary Stuart was commissioned by Francis I to his future wife, Princess Claude, daughter of Anne of Brittany. Queen of Scotland and France, Mary Stuart inherited it when his marriage to Francis II, grand-son of Claude.
The manuscript was subsequently transmitted between high lineage princesses, who traveled between Scotland, England and France. In 1837, Marie d'Orléans brought it to Würtenberg in occasion of her wedding to Alexander, Duke of Würtenberg.
Beautiful Example of Humanistic Script
The script of the Livre d’heures de Maria Stuart belongs to the 15th century humanistic script (littera humanistica rotunda). Handsomely simple in its appearance it was favored in contrast to the Gothic script. In an attempt to restore clarity, the littera humanistica antiqua or rotunda, features less abbreviations, but several ligatures, finally, descenders do not extend below the baseline (ex. long s).
Unfortunately, the Livre d’heures de Maria Stuart lost its original binding. The current binding is a Parisian work in the style of Frosset's workshop from the time around 1625. The binding features, two silver clasps attached to soft brown leather featuring gold tooling in à la fanfare style.