• Italy, c. 1506–7 (?)
  • Parchment, 179 fls.
  • Inv. LA149

Book of Hours of Alfonso I d’Este

The emblems with the heraldic devices and titles of Alfonso I d’Este (1476–1534), the third Duke of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio, appear in the illuminated margins that frame the texts in this book of hours, confirming that this leading figure from the Italian Renaissance was its owner.

Each of the offices in this prayer-book starts with a folio that has a historiated initial letter and exuberantly decorated margins. The backgrounds, gilded or black with gold stippling, are decorated with pearls, cameos and precious stones set among flowers, fruit and animals, as well as groups of strange grotesques.

Folio 94r, which introduces the Office of the Dead, has a large initial letter with the figure of Death, depicted as a skeleton in female attire, looking in a mirror that reflects the image of Man’s inescapable fate.

Acquired in 1924 by Calouste Gulbenkian, this codex still has nineteen superbly illuminated pages from its original decoration, the work of Matteo da Milano. The fourteen full-page miniatures that originally decorated the work were removed at some unknown date and purchased around 1884 by Bishop Strossmayer. They now belong to the Strossmayerova Gallery, Zagreb.

Alfonso I d’Este, d. 1534; Francis V of Austria-Este, 1846–75; Charles I, emperor of Austria, 1916–22. Acquired by Calouste Gulbenkian from J. Bourdariat, Paris, 2 May 1924.

H. 27 cm; W. 18.2 cm 

Toniolo 1989

Federico Toniolo, 'A proposito del Libro d’Ore di Alfonso I', Miniatura 2, 1989, p. 149–51.

Ricci 1998

Milena Ricci, 'Il libro e il monumento. Miniature ed iscrizioni per la gloria degli Estensi', in Gli Estensi. La Corte di Ferrara, prima parte. Modena: Biblioteca Estense Universitaria di Modena, pp. 233–68, colourpl. p. 261.

New York 1999

Katharine Baetjer and James David Draper (eds.), 'Only the Best'. Masterpieces of the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon, exhibition catalogue. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999, p. 39, cat. 15.

Lisbon 2001

Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. Lisbon: Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, 2001, p. 100, cat. 76.

Fac-simile 2002

Offiziolo Alfonsino. Libro d’ore di Alfonso I d’Este, comment to the fac-simile. Modena: Il Bulino edizione d’arte, Biblioteca Estense Universitária, 2002.

Baraldi 2002

Anna Maria Fioravanti Baraldi, Lucrezia Borgia 'la beltà, la virtú, la famahonesta'. Florence: Gabriele Corbo Ed., Florence, 2002, pp. 156–7.

Brussels 2003

Une Renaissance singulière. La cour des Este à Ferrare, exhibition catalogue. Brussels: Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels, 2003, p. 176, no. 127.

Updated on 08 june 2022

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