Demons and Devotion: The Hours of Catherine of Cleves
This digital facsimile provides reproductions of all 157 miniatures (and facing text pages) from the Hours of Catherine of Cleves. The original one-volume prayer book had been taken apart in the nineteenth century; the leaves were shuffled and then rebound into two confusing volumes. This presentation offers the miniatures in their original, fifteenth-century sequence.
The Hours of Catherine of Cleves is the greatest Dutch illuminated
manuscript in the world. Its 157 miniatures are by the gifted Master of Catherine of Cleves
(active ca. 1435–60), who is named after this book. The Master
of Catherine of Cleves is considered the finest and most original
illuminator of the medieval northern Netherlands, and this
manuscript is his masterpiece.
The manuscript Catherine commissioned is a prayer book
containing an unusually rich series of devotions illustrated with
especially elaborate suites of miniatures. The artist's keen sense
of observation combined with an interest in everyday objects
was a style far ahead of its time (it would come to flower in
seventeenth-century Dutch still-life painting). All the miniatures
are filled with amazing detail. Narrative was also one of the great
talents of the Master of Catherine of Cleves—he could tell a
good story. Finally, Catherine's codex is famous for the artist's
innovative borders, no two of which are alike.
Who Was Catherine of Cleves?
Catherine of Cleves (1417–1476) is known for two
things: her Book of Hours and her protracted
political battle against her husband. In 1430 she
married Arnold of Egmond (1410 –1473), becoming
duchess of Guelders. Although she bore her
husband six children, the marriage was not happy.
By 1440 Catherine refused to live with him.
War between husband and wife was sparked
by Arnold's disinheriting his only living son, Adolf
(1438–1477; rumor had it that Adolf accused his
father of homosexuality). Catherine's siding with
her son in the conflict led to anarchy. The cities
of Nijmegen, Zutphen, and Arnhem supported
Catherine and her son; Roermond sided with the
duke. In 1465 mother and son imprisoned Arnold,
forcing him to abdicate. Adolf, as duke, spent
six years in ceaseless struggles with his father's
In 1471 Catherine watched in horror as Arnold
secured his freedom and regained his title while Adolf
was imprisoned. Arnold died in 1473, disinheriting
both wife and son. Catherine's death in 1476 robbed
her seeing the release of her son. Adolf's liberty was
short-lived; he died the next year.
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