Lace Prayer Book of Marie de Médicis


This prayer book was made for Marie de Médicis in the second quarter of the 17th century. Beyond its provenance as a personal book owned by the famous queen, it is exceptional for its intricately cut borders, which transform the parchment margins to imitate lace. This effect was created using a technique known as canivet, in which a small knife was used to cut ornate patterns into paper or parchment. An art form that flourished originally among nuns in France, Germany, and the Netherlands beginning in the 15th century, it was employed to exceptional effect in several manuscripts connected with Marie de' Médicis. This manuscript from the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, made for her while she was regent of France and wife of King Henry IV, contains 28 miniatures, including original religious imagery as well as several later additions: a gouache portrait of the elderly queen and nine small miniatures produced in Bruges in about 1450 by an artist influenced by the Eyckian and Gold Scrolls styles prevalent at the time; and the coat-of-arms of Marie de Médicis, as well as her monogram. The Walters manuscript retains its original binding composed of mosaic inlays in green and black leather, as well as fine gilt pointillé foliate tooling. A replica of the binding was created by Léon Gruel for Henry Walters on one of his 17th-century printed books (92.467) that also connects to Marie de Médicis.

Last updated: October 24, 2017