Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
Cardinal York's Book of Hours
Bound in pink velvet, with the arms of Cardinal York as Henry IX embroidered on both boards, in silk, gold thread, gilt sequins and knobs, end of the eighteenth century.
This Book of Hours was produced in Paris for a French customer by Jean Pichore, master of a large commercial enterprise that produced a considerable number of illuminated texts, both sacred and secular. He had a brief foray into printing, in partnership with Remy de Laistre (active 1504), adapting his painted miniature designs for the medium of the metal cut; his designs were also used by the Parisian printer/publishers Simon Vostre (active 1490-1521) and Gilles and Germain Hardouin (active c.1500-1540). One of his most important early patrons was Cardinal Georges d’Amboise (1460-1510), Archbishop of Rouen. The Cardinal was an enthusiast of the Italian Renaissance, accumulating a large library of humanist texts, and it may have been he who influenced the classicising elements of the Pichore style. These can be seen in the present miniature, with its borders of classical architecture instead of the naturalistic borders also popular in the late fifteenth century, and the Italianate interiors, with the trappings of a Renaissance scholar’s study.
St Mark the Evangelist sits writing on a bench carved with a Nativity scene, attended by his emblem, the (winged) lion. The composition of this miniature, and others in the manuscript, were copied from the 'Briçonnet Hours' by Jean Poyer (active 1483-1503 in Tours), though this particular pose was used by Poyer for St Matthew rather than St Mark. As is usual in Books of Hours, St Mark appears last in the sequence of Gospel Lessons, and the text that accompanies the miniature is of the Ascension (Mark 16:14-20). The Gospel Lessons in Books of Hours were frequently the only part of the Bible that a layperson owned, and the Evangelists’ four texts encapsulate the liturgical year: St John’s text, read at Christmas, tells of God’s divine plan; St Luke’s of the Annunciation; St Matthew’s of the Nativity, read at Epiphany; and finally St Mark’s of the Ascension.
This manuscript’s original owner has not yet been fully identified, but from a coat of arms that appears in several places in the manuscript (folios 23v, 66v, 77v) we know that he or she was connected with the Francon family from the Dauphiné in the south of France. The manuscript also contains several extra prayers in French, including prayers for the King’s health and a prayer to St Roche (or Rock), popularly connected with Montpellier, but also invoked against the plague.
Catalogue entry adapted from 'The Northern Renaissance. Dürer to Holbein', London 2011.