Fol. 21v

Jean Poyer

"Obsecro te": Holy Family
Border: Musical Angels

Hours of Henry VIII, in Latin
Illuminated by Jean Poyer

France, Tours
ca. 1500
256 x 180 mm

The Dannie and Hettie Heineman Collection; deposited in 1962, given in 1977

MS H.8 (fol. 21v)
Item description: 

Illuminated around 1500 by the artist Jean Poyer, The Hours of Henry VIII receives its name from the possible but unproven eighteenth-century tradition that holds King Henry of England once owned this splendid manuscript. By following the simple instructions, you can explore every painting of this Renaissance masterpiece and learn how Books of Hours helped their readers to pray.

Books of Hours contain more or less standard texts—Calendar, Gospel Lessons, Hours of the Virgin, Hours of the Cross, Hours of the Holy Spirit, Penitential Psalms with Litany, Office of the Dead, and Suffrages—as well as a number of common accessory prayers. Based on the frequency and variety of added devotions, it appears that scribes included these for owners who wished to personalize their prayer books.

Page description: 

"Obsecro te": Holy Family
Border: Musical Angels

Of all the optional prayers that owners requested, by far the most popular were two to the Virgin called, after their Latin incipits (opening words), the "Obsecro te" (I beseech you), fol. 21v, and the "O intemerata" (O incomparable one), whose miniature is missing.

Prayers to the Virgin (fols. 21v–29v)
The Hours of Henry VIII contains a number of common accessory prayers, including the set of four Marian devotions that follow the Gospel Lessons–"Obsecro te," "O intemerata," "Stabat mater," and the Mass of the Virgin.

Since the first part of the "Obsecro te" emphasizes the Virgin's special role in the Incarnation and reminds her of the joys of motherhood, miniatures illustrating the prayer, as in the Hours of Henry VIII, depict the Virgin with the Christ Child. Here St. Joseph, in an imporant parental role he is rarely given in Books of Hours, offers Jesus a pear.

"Obsecro te" miniatures often include musical angels: here they serenade the Holy Family with a lute, pipe and tabor, portative organ, and trumpet marine.