Simon Bening’s masterpieces include, among others, the so-called Flowers Book of Hours (Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, CLM 23637), the Prayer Book of Cardinal Albrecht of Brandenburg (Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum) and the Da Costa Book of Hours (New York, Pierpont Morgan Library).
The Manuscript – Fine Art in a Small Format
The scribe of the Book of Hours Antonius van Damme had a professional and surely personal relationship with the painter Simon Bening for nearly fifty years. Even though Simon Bening was not officially named the painter of the miniatures, the Van Damme Hours contains all of those stylistic and iconographic elements that comprise the handsome œuvre of Bening.
These include delightful calendar images filled with charming vignettes of agrarian labors and aristocratic leisures; religious scenes infused with quiet, meditative dignity; the use of the dramatic close-up; deep, lush landscapes; borders made up of cloth-of-gold or strewn with flowers, birds, and the occasional snail or insect; and the keen observation of the details and textures of everyday objects such as cloth, stone, musical instruments, and jewels.
The Portrayal of Everyday Life
In the Van Damme Hours Simon Bening created 32 incredibly realistic full-page miniatures. It is as if one could almost delve into the page and actually touch its figures.
The 32 initial pages with their highly decorative flowered borders are placed opposite and in fascinating contrast to the full-page miniatures. The 12 calendar pictures illustrate the reality of everyday life in the 16th century with their minute attention to detail.
The borders portray a wealth of detailed observations taken from the various monthly activities: the rich celebrating, hunting and snugly enjoying the warmth of their homes, while farmers work the fields and vineyards, collect the harvest and take care of the animals.
All of these activities, be they pleasurable or arduous, take place against a backdrop of the change of the seasons, in turn reflecting a realistic picture of 16th-century life.
Red velvet (18th Century). Silver filigree chemise in red morocco case.
We have 2 facsimiles of the manuscript "Van Damme Hours":
- Das Van-Damme Stundenbuch (Deluxe Edition) facsimile edition published by Faksimile Verlag, 2013
- Das Van-Damme Stundenbuch (Standard Edition) facsimile edition published by Faksimile Verlag, 2013