Book of Hours of the Blessed Virgin Mary “Flora”
Horae Beatae Mariae Virginis (La Flora) (Book of Hours of the Blessed Virgin Mary “Flora”) is a lavishly decorated and illuminated codex that derives its name from the extraordinary presence of carefully drawn flowers and fruits. It is one of the most beautiful manuscripts in the National Library of Naples, known for the richness and variety of its iconography, which follows the taste and methods of the great masters of Flemish illumination. The codex begins with a calendar in which the months of the year are surrounded by an architectonic frame and each illuminated with two distinctive scenes; the second scene features the zodiacal sign. The codex includes more than 100 illuminations, 36 of which are full page. Produced in Flanders somewhere between Valenciennes, Bruges, and Ghent, the manuscript was realized in a workshop, as is evident from the use by the workshop of test sheets or tracing cards for the recurring scenes. Great masters contributed illuminations to the manuscript at different times; Simon Marmion (1420‒89), creator of one of the most ancient and prestigious cycles of full-page illuminations, stands out among these artists. Other outstanding contributors were Gerard Horenbout and the Master of the Dresden Prayer Book. The uniformity of the handwriting and of the illuminations, both the originals and the re-tracings, suggests the presence of a single master who managed a workshop that employed excellent architectural landscape artists and colorists. The handwriting is round gothic and was produced by a single copyist. Numerous illuminations are framed within gilded elements of gothic architecture. From a stylistic point of view, the close-ups of highly detailed figures are particularly noticeable. The use of color is very impressive and is typical of the illuminations produced during the Renaissance in the court of Burgundy, which had many connections with the Flemish court. Research has revealed that the codex was not produced for Charles VIII of France; his coat of arms, which is found inscribed in a gilded medallion under a crowned letter K at folio 2 verso, is a later addition. Textual analysis seems to suggest instead a bourgeois client. The date of production falls between 1483 and 1498. The codex is part of the Farnese Collection, which was brought from Parma to Naples after the Bourbon monarch, Charles III, King of Spain, conquered Naples in 1734.
Title in Original Language
Horae Beatae Mariae Virginis (La Flora)
Type of Item
368 folios, parchment : illuminated ; 20.4 x 13.4 centimeters
- Shelfmark: Ms. I. B. 51
- Bodo Brinkmann, “The Contribution of Simon Marmion to Books of Hours from Ghent and Bruges,” in Margaret of York, Simon Marmion, and The Visions of Tondal, edited by Thomas Kren (papers delivered at a symposium, June 21‒24, 1990) (Malibu, California: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1992).
- “Master of the Dresden Prayer Book,” in Web Gallery of Art. http://www.wga.hu/bio_m/m/master/dresden/biograph.html.
Last updated: October 17, 2017