Maddalena de' Medici was probably the favorite daughter of Lorenzo il Magnifico. Born on July 25, 1473, she married Franceschetto Cybo, the son of Pope Innocent VIII. This marriage gave the Florentine family prestige and power. Lorenzo de' Medici reinforced his connection with the Pope up to the point that his son Giovanni became Pope himself taking the name of Leo X.
Heraldic elements throughout the book suggest that Maddalena received this Book of Hours as a wedding gift. The object is of exquisite manufacture and it is probably the finest and most adorned among the codices that Lorenzo il Magnifico commissioned for his daughters.
A Triumph of the Arts of Goldsmith
The Book of Hours known as Medici-Rothschild – referring to the historic and current owners of the book – contains twenty-seven miniatures. The calendar displays remarkable images of the labors of the months. The decoration of the manuscript is extraordinary because of its complex arrangement within the frames surrounding the text.
The elaborate layout of the pages is embellished with precious objects and jewels along with heraldic symbols. The peacock is a recurring figure evoking the symbol of the House of Cybo. In addition, the Medici family is represented in the ornament of the devotional book in the form of diamond rings and laurel branches.
A certain number of illuminators may have worked to the illuminations of this precious manuscript. The famous Florentine illuminator Mariano del Buono was the main artist of the Medici-Rothschild Book of Hours. He is known as a book illustrator in his later career, when he painted the Offiziolo of Giuliano della Rovere (Rouen, Bibliothèque municipale, A.581 bis) and the so-called Hours of Agostino Biliotti (London, British Library, Yates Thompson 23).
The Medici-Rothschild Hours belongs now to the Rothschilds, a family famous for its business in banking. The elegant book, being part of their private collection, is visible only to the family members and kept in the imposing country house at Waddesdon Manor.
This devotional book is listed in the inventory of Lorenzo il Magnifico among the books in his possession. This is especially remarkable, for a short description offers an image of the aspect of its original binding. The inventory read as follows: "A small book for a woman, with enameled gold covers, with an Annunciation on one side and St. John the Baptist and Mary Magdalene on the other." Unfortunately, the original binding described in the inventory was lost hundreds of years ago.
We have 2 facsimiles of the manuscript "Medici-Rothschild Hours":
- Le Ore Medici-Rothschild (Vermeil Binding) facsimile edition published by Franco Cosimo Panini Editore, 2011
- Le Ore Medici-Rothschild (Silver Binding) facsimile edition published by Franco Cosimo Panini Editore, 2011