Demons and Devotion: The Hours of Catherine of Cleves

January 22 through May 2, 2010
Image of Mouth of Hell

The Hours of Catherine of Cleves is the most important and lavish of all Dutch manuscripts as well as one of the most beautiful among the Morgan's collection. Commissioned by Catherine of Cleves around 1440 and illustrated by an artist known as the Master of Catherine of Cleves, the work is an illustrated prayer book containing devotions that Catherine would recite throughout the day. The manuscript's two volumes have been disbound for the exhibition, which features nearly a hundred miniatures.

The manuscript is as rich in pictures as it is in prayers: it contains 157 (originally 168) miniatures that reveal colorful landscapes and detailed domestic interiors. In The Holy Family at Work, for example, Joseph planes a board and the Virgin Mary weaves while the infant Jesus takes his first steps in a walker. Throughout the miniatures are meticulously depicted buildings, textiles, furniture, jewelry, and even fish—painted over silver foil. Many miniatures comprise long elaborate cycles of iconographic and theological complexity. One such cycle includes eight miniatures detailing the legend of the True Cross.

The exhibition also includes manuscripts illuminated by both predecessors and contemporaries of the Master of Catherine of Cleves, who is considered the finest as well as the most original illuminator of the northern Netherlands.

This exhibition is underwritten by a major grant from the B. H. Breslauer Foundation.

Additional support is generously provided by Mrs. Alexandre P. Rosenberg.

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Image Caption: 

Mouth of Hell (detail)
Hours of Catherine of Cleves, in Latin
Illuminated by the Master of Catherine of Cleves
The Netherlands, Utrecht, ca. 1440
7 1/2 x 5 1/8 inches (192 x 130 mm)
Purchased with the assistance of various Fellows, 1970
MS M.945 (fols. 168v–169)
Image courtesy of Faksimile Verlag Luzern.