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Collections | Medieval & Renaissance Manuscripts

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Catherine of Cleves image

St. Ambrose; St. Augustine
Hours of Catherine of Cleves, in Latin
Utrecht, The Netherlands, ca. 1440
Illuminated by the Master of Catherine of Cleves (Netherlandish, active 1430–60)
Tempera on vellum, 358 leaves
7 1/2 x 5 1/8 in. (192 x 130 mm)
Purchased on the Belle da Costa Greene Fund and with the assistance of the Fellows, 1963; MS M.917, pp. 244–245

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The Cleves Master, named for his masterpiece, is unquestionably the most gifted and original of all Dutch illuminators. His rich palette, extraordinary powers of observation, and the everyday realism of his biblical scenes, place him among the greatest of illuminators. The borders surrounding suffrages (brief devotions to saints) are often novel. The peaceful coexistence of the crab and mussels surrounding St. Ambrose, for example, are a commentary on his preaching abilities, for it was said he could reconcile the most bitter of enemies. (In the natural world mussels clamp down in the presence of crabs, which crave their delicate flesh.)

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The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Background images: Photography by Todd Eberle unless otherwise noted. © 2006 Todd Eberle.