Hours of Henry VIII, in Latin
Illuminated by Jean Poyer
The Dannie and Hettie Heineman Collection; deposited in 1962, given in 1977
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.
Lauds: Visitation (fol. 40v)
According to Luke (1:36–56), Gabriel also told the Virgin that her cousin Elizabeth, in her old age, also had conceived a son. Soon thereafter, to rejoice, Mary went to visit her cousin, who was six months pregnant with John the Baptist. (Elizabeth was barren until Gabriel appeared to Zacharias, her husband, telling him that his wife would bear him a son that he should name John.)
The burlet on Elizabeth's head, as well as the two purses hanging from her elaborate gold belt, give her an exotic appearance. The man standing behind the pair—his eyes half shut—is Joseph.
When the Virgin entered Elizabeth's house and greeted the infant John leaped in her womb and she was filled with the Holy Spirit. Here, however, as this scene is usually depicted, the meeting takes place outdoors; the Virgin extends her hand to Elizabeth, who folds her hands in prayerful recognition of the forthcoming Savior.