A Fifteenth-Century Book of Hours Manuscript in the Princes Czartoryski Library in Cracow
Piętnastowieczny rękopis Godzinek w krakowskiej Bibliotece Książąt Czartoryskich
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The Book of Hours kept in the Princes Czartoryski Library in Cracow as Ms. Czart. 3467 is a sumptuously illuminated manuscript dated to the early 15th century, purchased by Wladyslaw Czartoryski at the sale of the Ambroise Firmin-Didot library in Paris in 1884. Neither its origin nor its earlier history is known. The manuscript contains seven full-page miniatures with borders (68x62mm), 111 ornamented initials, and vignettes set into the text. The original text of the codex is comprised of the Officium Beatae Mariae, the seven Penitential Psalms, a litany of the Saints, Officium pro Defunctis, Officium Sanctae Crucis, and Officium Sancti Spiritus. The very choice of subject-matter for the miniatures illustrating particular parts of the Hours seems to point to some links with the Paris circle of illuminators; also the style of the painted decoration of the Cracow manuscript appears to be of Paris origin. Equally strong echoes of Paris illumination can be discerned in the non-figural ornamentation of the Czartoryski manuscript. A similar mise-en-page - a miniature in a thin triple frame from which issue small spiky shoots with jagged leaves - appeared in Paris book illumination in the first half of the 14th century; the pattern of a miniature whose frame surrounded the bas-de-page together with a few lines of the text, was popular for a very long time, being still used in the early 15th century. The character of the decoration of the manuscript and the content of the litany justify the hypothesis that the Book of Hours was executed, broadly speaking, in the northern and not southern part of France. The miniatures were painted by a master probably trained in the Paris circle, although the manuscript itself is not linked with the Paris diocese (the litany lacks the patrons of Paris, SS Genevieve and Denys). The other artist, closely cooperating with the author of the miniatures, painted the frames and borders The prayer book may have been commissioned by someone connected with the Franciscan Order, possibly from the region of either Strasbourg, Auxerre, Verdun or Orleans (which would be indicated by the saints invoked in the litany), and produced within the first quarter of the 15th century.
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