The Voustre Demeure Hours, also known as the Hours of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, is a compendium of the most elite illumination of the European Northern Renaissance. Made in Ghent around 1475-1480, every single page of this manuscript is illuminated in gold, silver, and dazzling colors, and the book is a treasure trove of Flemish imagery of the highest quality. Its major illumination includes twenty-one full-page miniatures, another twenty-two smaller miniatures, and abundant painted borders.
Beginning with an exquisite calendar in French, this personal Christian devotional book contains prayers in Latin and French recited by members of the laity in their private devotions. The manuscript received its moniker voustre demeure ("your residence") from the motto on painted banderoles in the border decoration at the opening of Lauds and Prime of the Hours of the Virgin (Madrid, fols. 129r and 144r).
The finest artists of the time were involved in the creation of this book's dynamic illumination. Although there is not a full scholarly consensus, the artistic team likely included Simon Marmion, Lieven van Lathem, the Master of the Dresden Prayerbook, and the Vienna Master of Mary of Burgundy (named for his work in the Hours of Mary of Burgundy).
The relationship between miniature and border is one of the most remarkable characteristics of this manuscript. In addition to characteristic Ghent-Bruges borders with naturalistically painted flora, the codex is also bestowed with dramatic historiated borders that are linked by subject matter to the miniatures. The night scenes of the Agony in the Garden and the Arrest of Christ, for example, appear beneath the Crucifixion (Berlin, fol. 10r) in a masterful page of painting attributed to the Vienna Master of Mary of Burgundy or an assistant. At times, the text takes part in the pictorial illusion, appearing as if it were held open by a complex apparatus of ropes securing it to the page.
The manuscript was likely commissioned around 1475 by someone with the personal motto voustre demeure at the court of Charles the Bold (1433-1477), Duke of Burgundy, and his consort, Margaret of York (1446-1503): the couple's enlaced initials C and M appear on fol. 16r of the Madrid codex. The elegant bâtarde script of the text was provided by Nicolas Spierinc, an acclaimed scribe and illuminator who often embellished his sophisticated script with penwork flourishes called cadelles.
More for Art
The manuscript in Madrid was purchased by Cardinal Francisco Javier Zelada y Rodríguez (1717-1801), and it then came into the possession of the cathedral of Toledo, before entering the national library's collection.
The full-page miniatures were removed from the codex, trimmed down to their golden frames, and pasted onto modern parchment to create a picture album bound in the late eighteenth century and now in Berlin by way of Alexander Hamilton (1767-1852), Tenth Duke of Hamilton, and the Prussian State. Philadelphia's single full-page miniature of the Pietà by Simon Marmion is mounted on panel. It was bequeathed to the City of Philadelphia by John G. Johnson (1841-1917).