Leaves from the Hours of Charles de Martigny

France, Tours
c. 1485-1494
Marlay cuttings Fr. 4, 5, 6

Not surprisingly, given his royal connections, Charles de Martigny entrusted the decoration of his Book of Hours to the most favoured court painter. Jean Bourdichon, who illuminated manuscripts for the royal family and painted their portraits, included a life-like image of Charles de Martigny in his Book of Hours.

Learn more about these leaves by exploring the sections below or selecting the images on the right. Discover further details by choosing any of the images with the hotspot symbol .

The manuscript was illuminated by Jean Bourdichon and his workshop assistants.

These leaves belonged to a Book of Hours made c. 1485-1494 for Charles de Martigny, Bishop of Elne (1475-1494). By the 19th century, at least one of them (Marlay cutting Fr. 6) belonged to Samuel Rogers (1763-1855) and was acquired in 1856 by Thomas Miller Whitehead (1825-1897). Subsequently, all three leaves were in the possession of Charles Brinsley Marlay (1831-1912), who bequeathed them to the Fitzwilliam Museum in 1912.

These leaves would have introduced the main liturgical divisions of Charles de Martigny’s Book of Hours. A portrait of the patron is incorporated in the full-page miniature of the Mass of St Gregory. The two other surviving leaves have large miniatures with arched tops and three lines of text written beneath the images. The latter also have full-borders of pink and blue acanthus sprays on gold grounds, incorporating floral motifs, birds, animals and grotesques.

The common palette, identified in all three leaves, includes carbon black, lead white, brown earths and vermilion red. The decorated borders which frame two of the miniatures contain lead-tin yellow, malachite green, organic pinks and azurite blue, with dark blue accents painted with ultramarine. Shell gold was used extensively, and shell silver was employed to paint the clouds in the Mass of St Gregory. The latter miniature also contains some modern pigments, which bear witness to a ‘restoration’ campaign carried out during the 19th century.

The palette used in the three miniatures is not homogeneous. Some of the variations may be due to differences in subject matter and setting, i.e. the sombre tones of an outdoors night scene versus the brighter hues of a lit interior. These colour variations are reflected in the choice of different pigments.

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Detail of the Virgin’s face under magnification (7.5x).
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Detail of the apostle’s face under magnification (7.5x).
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Detail of the apostle’s face under magnification (7.5x).

Surrounded by the apostles as the dove of the Holy Spirit descends, the Virgin Mary is the central focus of this miniature, which would have introduced the Hours of the Holy Spirit in the original manuscript. The proportion of image to text, the border design, the miniature’s thin, arched frame, the balanced, symmetrical composition, and the architectural backdrop emphasizing the Virgin’s centrality echo Pentecost miniatures in works by Bourdichon and his workshop in the 1480s and 1490s. The monumental figures in the foreground are early examples of the artist’s mature style. In his later works, Bourdichon increasingly favoured compositions with ‘dramatic close-ups’. While the composition follows the master’s design faithfully, the level of execution, especially in the schematic background figures, falls short of Bourdichon’s autographs, which suggests that the image was painted by a close assistant.

The miniature features a full border of pink and blue acanthus and floral sprays on a gold ground, with strawberries, two birds, a butterfly and a seated dog. Below are three lines of text, opening with a grey and white ornamental initial D, introducing the Hours of the Holy Spirit. The letter is filled with gold on a pink ground, enclosing sprays of blue, yellow and white pansies. The text of the Hours of the Holy Spirit continues on the reverse, which is decorated with a one-sided, vertical border in the outer margin. The border contains pink and blue acanthus, and floral sprays on a gold ground, strawberries and two birds. The page is further ornamented with small foliate initials in contrasting colours, one embellished with a fly and another with the head of a goat. Line fillers take the form of white and gold foliate motifs on blue and maroon grounds, and a tree branch rendered in brown and gold.