The Hours of Philip the Bold

Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy


Duke Philip the Bold, founder of the Burgundian dynasty, entrusted his Dominican confessor Guillaume de Valen with the commission of this manuscript in 1376. He paid the professional scribe Jean L’Avenant for its completion in 1379, but had a few texts and images added in 1390. Philip is shown in prayer within the historiated initial on fol. 13r, with the (now erased) arms of Burgundy in the border beneath. Small miniatures throughout the volume include further images of Philip and members of his family.   

The manuscript’s patron, Philip the Bold, is shown in prayer within the historiated initial beneath the Annunciation miniature. The bas-de-page scene preserves faint traces of the arms of Burgundy supported by lions. The images on this page are the only contribution the Master of the Bible of Jean de Sy made to the manuscript. The Annunciation displays the salient features of his work: a balanced composition with spatially conceived architecture; dainty figures, small in proportion to the overall picture space; elegant drapery with peculiar patterns, including cascading serpentine- or pretzel-like hems and deep, V-shaped folds resembling pouches; vigorous, yet courtly gestures; powerful, though controlled facial expressions; carefully blended flesh tones; a sophisticated palette, contrasting bold orange and saturated blue with pastel green, grey, pink and violet; extensive underdrawing; and a subtle painting technique, combining directional strokes with tiny dots.

The application of the red glaze over the gold fleurs-de-lis background is continuous with the shading on the left side of the loggia and emphasizes the three-dimensional effect not simply by means of geometry, but by simulating the play of light and shadow on different surfaces and fabrics.