Paintings by the Master of Bedford
This book of hours belonged to Isabel, the daughter of Jean VI, Duke of Brittany, and his wife Jeanne. Isabel was the granddaughter, on her mother’s side, of Charles VI, King of France, and Isabel of Bavaria. In 1430, Duchess Isabel married Guy XIV, Count of Laval and Lord of Montmorency.
This exceptionally luxurious manuscript, also called the ‘Hours of Lamoignon’ after the collector to whom it belonged in the 18th century, was produced at the workshop of one of the most distinguished illuminators in Paris, whose work is recognisable as from 1410s, known as the Master of Bedford. He acquired this name as three of his finest works were produced for John of Lancaster, Duke of Bedford (1389–1435) and regent of France (1422–1435).
The work has a very diverse pictorial scheme, including thirty-two superb miniatures, each of which is surrounded by small images showing scenes that refer to the central theme. In fact, this is one of the chief characteristics of the Bedford workshop at its peak. The text is framed by margins that have a delicate floral decoration and a host of musician angels, monsters and grotesques, country-folk and religious figures, totalling over one thousand decorative images. The initial calendar has twenty-four miniatures with the twelve signs of the Zodiac and allegories of the twelve months of the year. The borders contain eighty-four figures or scenes related to the chores done in each month, and the decoration is further enriched by twenty portraits of saints. The illuminations in this codex also include small coloured and gilded letters and a total of four hundred and fourteen historiated initials.
The owner of the book of hours is also shown at prayer in three miniatures, on folios 165v, 202v and 286vrespectively.
Isabel of Brittany, the wife of Guy XIV, Count of Lavall; Lamoignon Collection; Dukes of Newcastle, Clumber Park Library. Acquired by Calouste Gulbenkian, Sotheby’s, 21 June 1937 (lot 1).
E. G. Millar, Souvenir de l'exposition de manuscrits français à peintures organisée à la Grenville Library (British Museum) en janvier-mars 1932. Etudes concernant les 65 manuscrits exposés. Paris: 1933, p. 31.
E. P. Spencer, 'The Master of the Duke of Bedford. The Bedford Hours', The Burlington Magazine, CVII, 1965, pp. 495–502.
E. P. Spencer, 'The Master of the Duke of Bedford. The Salisbury Breviary', The Burlington Magazine, CVIII, 1965, p. 607–12.
Meiss, M., The de Lévis Hours and the Bedford Workshop, New Haven, 1972, p. 12-13, 18, 21-22, 25.
M. Meiss, French Painting in the Time of Jean de Berry. The Limbourgs and Their Contemporaries. New York: 1974, p. 364.
Sterling, Charles, La peinture médiévale à Paris, 1300-1500, t. 1, Paris, 1987, pp. 421, 425, 431.
A Arte do Retrato. Quotidiano e Circunstância, exhibition catalogue, Lisbon (Calouste Gulbenkian Museum), 2000, cat. no. 2.
The Image of Time. European Manuscript Books, exhibition catalogue. Lisbon: Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, 2000, cat. 10.
Paris-1400, exhibition catalogue. Paris: Musée du Louvre, 2004, cat. 220.
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