Created in Ghent in the late 1470s, the Madrid Hours of William Lord Hastings is a splendid showpiece of Flemish illumination made for an English patron. A diplomat, soldier, and courtier, William was made the first baron Hastings in 1461. The manuscript's original thirty-three full-page miniatures are the work of the workshop or followers of the Vienna Master of Mary of Burgundy. They are renowned for their artistic quality—reflecting the new naturalism of contemporary panel painting, especially in night scenes—and their occasional distinctive iconography.
The Madrid manuscript comprises many of the Latin texts typically found in a book of hours. The manuscript begins with a calendar, followed by suffrages of saints, and continues with the Hours of the Virgin and other devotional texts.
A Reverence for the New Painting
The largest pictorial cycle—eighteen miniatures surrounded by strewn-flower borders—illustrates the suffrages and includes rare subjects such as the Martyrdom of Saint Erasmus (fol. 36v). Saint George, especially revered in England, is pictured on horseback defeating a dragon (fol. 28v). Another group of miniatures illustrates the Hours of the Virgin, with a cycle of eight scenes from the life of the Virgin extending from the Annunciation (fol. 73v) to the Flight into Egypt (fol. 135v).
The compositions often closely correspond to renowned panel paintings and miniatures by Hugo van der Goes of Ghent, Dieric Bouts (active in Louvain), and the Vienna Master of Mary of Burgundy. The Martyrdom of Saint Erasmus, for example, recalls Bouts's panel painting of the same subject, and many of the motifs in the borders are similar to those found in the Voustre Demeure Hours. In copying earlier images, the Madrid manuscript reveals the systematic use of pattern books, from which clients and artists could choose famous models.
All of the manuscript's original miniatures appear on versos of leaves, their rectos blank, and face the beginning of a new section of text, which opens with a painted initial. Both pages feature illusionistic strewn-flower borders featuring fleshy acanthus that are harmonized across the opening. Text pages without major decoration are embellished by one-quarter borders of delicate vines and flowers. The text is written in French Bâtarde, also known as Burgundian letters, a script well suited to the small size of the manuscript's pages. After the manuscript reached England, three miniatures and some missing text were added toward the end of the book.
Made for the Lord Chamberlain of King Edward IV
The full-page escutcheon that opens the volume (fol. 1v) immediately reveals the patron as Hastings. Hasting's role at the court of Edward IV led to the inclusion of Saints Edward and Richard, namesakes of the king and his brother, in the calendar. Although Hastings was lord chamberlain to King Edward IV, and his diplomacy helped foster connections between England and the Duchy of Burgundy, he was executed by Richard on accusations of treason.
A Seventeenth-Century Binding
The manuscript's binding is of rose velvet embellished with metal corner pieces. This binding may well have been provided in the late seventeenth century by Cardinal Philip Howard (1629-1694), who gave the book to the Dominican priory at Bornhem in Flanders, which he had founded in 1659.