The Book of Hours Vat. Lat. 3781 has neither title nor name. Who created it, for whom it was intended and where and when it was crafted are information that still remain unclear; there are no written documents about its history or provenance.
It was common for owners to request their names to be clearly shown in manuscripts and books (or to attach collectors' stamps), and often the subsequent owners erased traces of its origins or previous belongings. The simplest thing was to tear out whole leaves, just as it happened for this manuscript: the first leaf of the original book-block is lost.
Thanks to the two coats of arms of the front and back covers of the manuscript, it is possible to recognize a Pope and a Cardinal who adorned the book of hours with the current binding: Pius VI Braschi (1775-1799) and Cardinal Francisco Zelada, prefect of the Pontifical library.
Codex 3781 survived Napoleon’s campaign that saw the abduction of several documents from the Vatican Library.
Later on, scholars were led to believe that the book was altered, to say the least, by Pope Paul V (1605 and 1621) who is believed to have gifted it to the Vatican Library.
The style of the miniatures and the landscapes present in the calendar, allow conjectures on the place and date of creation. The book could have been created in France, possibly in the Limoges area, during the 15th century.
The use of foreground, realism, and perspective in the illuminations are features related to master Jean the Bourdichon and his workshop.
We have 2 facsimiles of the manuscript "Vatican Book of Hours from the Circle of Jean Bourdichon":
- Il Libro d'ore Vaticano di Jean Bourdichon facsimile edition published by Jaca Book, 1986
- Offizium der Madonna - Stundenbuch des Jean Bourdichon facsimile edition published by Belser Verlag, 1984