Book of Hours (Use of Cambrai)
In Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on parchment,
France, Valenciennes, c. 1475-1480
1 large and 14 small miniatures by the Workshop of Simon Marmion
84 ff., lacking an undetermined number of leaves rendering collation impossible, including at least seven with miniatures,
24 long lines, ruled in red, written in dark brown ink in bâtarde script, justification 105 x 70 mm., rubrics in red, text
capitals touched in yellow, 5-line initial in blue with white tracery against a ground of pink and gold, 1- and 2-line
initials of burnished gold on grounds of pink and blue, occasional line-fillers of similar type, one large miniature with
full-page border and 14 small miniatures accompanied by panel borders on one or both sides with sprays of brown and
blue acanthus, fruit and flowers and inhabited by birds, minor rubbing to a few miniatures and borders, around ten
leaves remargined in gutter, some discreet modifications to text to conceal lacunae. Nineteenth-century French red
morocco, gilt-blocked to a cathedral style, gilt spine, gilt edges, marbled endleaves, slight wear to joints and corners.
Dimensions 158 x 110 mm.
This interesting and beautiful made-to-order Book of Hours offer an excellent witness to the
atelier of the painter-illuminator Simon Marmion, called in his day the “prince of illumination.”
The present manuscript can be attributed to a member of his workshop who worked side-byside with the master in the later 1470s. Recent research suggests that the manuscript was written
specifically for the monastery of St.-Jean-Baptiste de Valenciennes, where Guillaume Braque was
abbot (and perhaps patron of the present work).
1. The style of these miniatures and borders shows that the manuscript was painted in
the later 1470s in the workshop of Simon Marmion who was active in Valenciennes from
1458 until his death in 1489. The French of the rubrics is that of the north Francophone
area, to which Hainault belonged. Most of Hainault was in the diocese of Cambrai and
what remains of the Office of the Dead is for the use of Cambrai and the litany includes
many Cambrai saints, for example Wasnulph and Vindicianus, and others more specific
to Hainault. Recent research by Gregory Clark, which focuses in part on the unusually
long litany, suggests that the manuscript was probably written specifically for the
monastery of St.-Jean-Baptiste in Valenciennes. It shares very unusual readings with the
Hours of Guillaume Braque (London, Art Market) made for the abbot of St.-JeanBaptiste himself, who was perhaps also the patron of the present manuscript
2. USA, Private Collection.
ff. 1-3v, Hours of the Virgin, with Sext, antiphona: In prole mater, capitulum: Gaude Maria,
response: Dignare me;
ff. 4-24v, Abbreviated Hours for the Days of the Week of All Saints for Tuesdays (ff. 4-7v), with
rubric, S’ensieuent les heures de tous les sains lesquelles on doit dire les mardis a matines, of the Holy Spirit for
Wednesdays (ff. 8-11v), with rubric, Chy apres s’ensieuent heures du saint esperit lesquelles se dient les
merquedis a matines, of the Sacrament for Thursdays (ff. 11v-15v), with rubric, Chi après s’ensievent les
heures du sacrament lesquelles se dient les yoedis, of the Dead for Fridays, lacking Matins and Lauds (ff.
16-20v), of the Virgin for Saturdays (ff. 21-24v), with rubric, S’ensieuent les heures de nostre damme pour
le sampdy a matines;
ff. 25-28v, Hours of the Virgin, end of Lauds followed by Memorials for Peace and All Saints;
ff. 29-32, Mass of the Virgin, lacking opening;
ff. 32-35, Gospel Extracts;
ff. 35-35v, O intemerata, lacking end;
ff. 36-46v, Vigils of the Dead, fragment (but corresponding to the use of Cambrai);
ff. 47-51, Suffrages to Saints Margaret (lacking opening), Elizabeth, Apollonia, Mary Magdalene,
Barbara, Ursula, All Saints and the Holy Spirit;
ff. 51v-52, Seven verses of St Bernard, rubric, Chy après s’ensieuent les .viii. [sic] vers saint Bernard”;
ff. 52-53v, Prayer preceded by a long rubric, Ceste orison qui s’ensieult fu trouvee deriere l’autel saint piere a
romme et li pape Jehan de ce nom .xii. donna a tous cheulx et celles qui devotement diront ceste orison qui s’ensieult en
quelconques eglise ou chimentiere que ce soit avec ung pater noster et ave maria pour autant d’ans de pardons qu’il y a
eult de corps ensepveli en le ditte eglise et chimentiere depuis le remier ensepveli jusques que on dira le ditte orison;
ff. 53v-54, Seven Last Words, rubric, S’ensieuent les .vii. parolles que nostre signeur dist pendant en la croix;
ff. 55-55v, Recommendation of the souls, rubric, S’ensieuent les commendes des ames;
ff. 55v-84v, Psalms and prayers, including Litany, with many uncommon additions from
Cambrai, Mons, and the Franco-Flemish border, saints Gislenus, Wasnulph, Acarius, Humberte,
Waldetrudis, Aldegundis, Ragenfredis, and Vindicianus.
f. 1, Adoration of the Magi;
f. 4, All Saints;
f. 8, Pentecost, set in a landscape;
f. 11v, Procession;
f. 21, Annunciation to the Virgin;
f. 47, St Elizabeth;
f. 47v, St Apollonia;
f. 48, St Mary Magdalene;
f. 48v, St Barbara;
f. 49v, St Ursula and the 11,000 Virgins;
f. 50, All Saints;
f. 50v, Ascension;
f. 51v, St Bernard with the Devil;
f. 52v, Death striding through a landscape;
f. 53v, Crucifixion.
The careful execution of the manuscript and the unusual choice of texts and their illustrations
(for example, f. 52v, an emaciated cadaver carrying his sarcophagus to illustrate a common
prayer of indulgence) exclude a routine production of the book trade. This interesting and
beautiful made-to-order Book of Hours, destined for a patron living in the western, Frenchspeaking diocese of Cambrai, offers an excellent witness to the functioning of the atelier of the
painter-illuminator Simon Marmion, both in its cycle of illustrations and in its marginal
decoration. Born in Amiens in the late 1420s and trained there, Marmion was one of the most
esteemed miniaturists of his generation, called in his day the “prince d’enluminure.” He moved to
Valenciennes by 1458, where he lived and worked until his death in 1489. A miniature of the
Holy Virgins greeted by Christ at the Gates of Paradise from the lost Breviary of Charles the Bold, ca.
1465-70 (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Collection Robert Lehman,1975.I.2477) has
the best claim to being a documented work by the artist and provides a basis for reconstructing
his oeuvre. But little was known about his atelier until Marc Gil published in 1998 a manuscript
newly acquired by the Bibliothèque nationale de France (MS nouv. acq. lat. 3214), which he
attributed to the artist (possibly) and his workshop in the 1460s.
Malachite green, pale pink or salmon, azure of great purity, powdered gold, and gilded bronze
or silver, very rarely seen, create the effect of a great sweetness. This sophisticated and unusual
use of colors is characteristic of the palette of Marmion in the Visions of Tondal, written for
Margaret of York, Duchess of Burgundy, in 1474 (Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum, MS 30).
In addition, the miniature of the Adoration of the Magi (f. 1) offers a synthesis of elements that
are found separately in the Nativities and Adorations of the Magi in numerous Books of Hours
executed by Marmion and his workshop between 1460 and 1489. The author of this miniature
and the smaller illustrations has perfectly integrated both the technique and the models of
Marmion, skillfully displaying a full awareness of the canon of his figures and their poses (ff. 4, 8,
21, 50). In this regard, he evokes certain details of the leaf of the Holy Virgins mentioned
above. However, he distinguishes himself from his master in the execution of the faces, the vast
barren landscapes, and by the simplification of his architecture.
The marginal decoration, which permits interesting parallels with contemporary Ghent
illumination, is the other interesting feature of the manuscript. The vignettes of text are framed
by a gold filet and ornamented with plump, thick acanthus, whose numerous knobby stems with
bare roots are of azure and bronze. These resemble the marginal decoration of two treatises on
morals copied by David Aubert in Ghent for Margaret of York ca. 1470-75 (Iena, Thüringer
Universitäts-und Landesbibliothek, Cod. Gall F.85, and Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce
365). But, the originality of the margins in the present manuscript lies in the fact that the
branches of acanthus, executed by the same hand as the miniatures, are posed simply on the
background of ivory-colored parchment, without any other decorative elements except for the
delicate birds naturalistically observed that populate the borders. The visual effect obtained is
one of great elegance, the decorated borders harmonizing perfectly with the style of the
paintings. On the basis of its miniatures and border decoration, the present manuscript can thus
be attributed to a member of Marmion’s workshop, one who worked side-by-side with the
master in the later 1470s instead of in the 1460s when the Paris Book of Hours was painted. We
are grateful for Marc Gil for his observations on and analysis of the present manuscript.
Gil, Marc."Un livre d’heures inédit de l’atelier de Simon Marmion à Valenciennes," Revue de l'art
121, 1998, pp. 43-48.
Hindman, Sandra, D'Ancona, Mirella, Palladino, Pia and Saffiotti, Maria Francesca. The Robert
Lehman Collection, IV Illuminations, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997, pp. 61-72.
Kren, Thomas, and McKendrick, Scot. Illuminating the Renaissance: the Triumph of Flemish Manuscript
Painting in Europe, Los Angeles, CA, J. Paul Getty Museum, 2003.
Kren, Thomas, and. Wieck, Roger S. The Visions of Tondal from the Library of Margaret of York, Malibu,
CA, J. Paul Getty Museum, 1990.