The Sobieski Book of Hours, c.1420-5

The Master of the Bedford Hours (fl.1415-1430)

The Sobieski Book of Hours, c.1420-5


Manuscript on vellum with bodycolour and gold leaf. Bound in red velvet, with gold corner-pieces and clasps on fore-edge, oval plaques on binding with crowned JRP (Johannes Rex Poloniorum, John King of Poland) monogram in centre.

28.9 x 20 x 6.5 cm

Probably made for Margaret of Burgundy, eldest daughter of John the Fearless; Urban Doczy of Nagylucse, Bishop of Raab and of Erlau, Hungary, by 1492; John Sobieski (1624-96), King of Poland, by 1683; his granddaughter Mary Clementina Sobieska (1702-35), wife of the Old Pretender, c.1718; by whom bequeathed to her younger son Henry Benedict Stuart, Cardinal York (1725-1807); by whom bequeathed to George IV when Prince of Wales, 1807

This manuscript was written and illuminated c.1420-5, initially in the workshop of the Master of the Bedford Hours. He can possibly be identified as Jean Haincelin of Haguenau, whose first recorded work was in 1403 in Paris, the major centre for the production of Books of Hours in the fifteenth century. There were two other major illuminators respons ible for the manuscript, the Fastolf Master (fl.1440-50 in Rouen), and the Master of the Munich Golden Legend (fl.1440-50 in northern France). The Bedford Master was responsible particularly for the miniatures introducing the life of the Virgin Mary in the Hours proper, and for the miniature shown here. This depicts a lady, probably Margaret of Burgundy, praying to St Margaret. The saint appears on the back of a dragon, her emblem (Satan in the form of a dragon swallowed Margaret during her martyrdom). It is thought that the lady is praying for a child to St Margaret, the patroness of expectant mothers. Margaret's marriage to Arthur of Richmond, younger brother of the Duke of Brittany, was childless, and the bed behind her can be seen hung with green draperies, the traditional colour reserved for ladies of the French royal house in birth chambers. Beneath the miniature is the poem La Vie Sainte Margaret, popular in the fifteenth century. The hypothetical identification of the kneeling lady with Margaret of Burgundy rests partly on the fact that her sister Anne, Duchess of Bedford, was the patroness of the Bedford Master.

The manuscript is on vellum; the miniature decorated initial and borders in bodycolour and gold leaf; 234 folios and numbered in pencil.

RCIN 1142248