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Flemish Illumination in the Era of Catherine of Cleves
January 22 through May 2, 2010


St. Christopher Carrying the Christ Child
Book of Hours, in Latin
Belgium, Ghent?, ca. 1420
Illuminated by the Master of Guillebert de Mets
180 x 130 mm.
The Morgan Library & Museum; MS M.46, fol. 23v

The Master of Guillebert de Mets is named after the scribe who signed a manuscript (today in Paris) of Boccaccio's Decameron made for Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy, to which the artist contributed nearly a third of the hundred miniatures. Active about 1420 to 1445, probably in Ghent, the Guillebert Master and the younger Master of the Ghent Privileges were the two leading illuminators in Flanders during the second quarter of the fifteenth century. (Their similar styles are easily confused.) The Guillebert Master was at times a subtler colorist, as seen in this St. Christopher Carrying the Christ Child.

St. George Slaying the Dragon
Book of Hours, in Latin
Belgium, Bruges, ca. 1450
Illuminated by the Master of Jean Chevrot
159 x 110 mm
The Morgan Library & Museum; MS M.421, fol. 23v

The Master of Jean Chevrot was named after the frontispieces he painted in a two-volume manuscript (today in Brussels) of St. Augustine's City of God that was made in 1445 for Bishop Jean Chevrot of Tournai. The Chevrot Master had firsthand knowledge of the art of Jan van Eyck, having collaborated with him on the Turin-Milan Hours, an infamous manuscript that took seven artistic campaigns and over fifty years to complete (partially destroyed; the surviving portion is in Turin). Especially Eyckian is the Chevrot Master's attention to detail, as seen in George's armor, the birds in the sky, and the dragon's genitals.

Adoration of the Magi
Book of Hours, in Latin and French
Northern France; Belgium, ca. 1480
Illuminated by Simon Marmion
165 x 110 mm.
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1900; MS M.6, fol. 44v

Simon Marmion was called the very prince of book illumination by Renaissance poet Jean Lemaire, who also equated him with Jean Fouquet and Jan van Eyck. Based in Valenciennes, Marmion was active from the late 1450s until his death in 1489, executing commissions for the highly refined tastes of the court of Burgundy. This miniature of The Adoration of the Magi exemplifies the artist's subtle palette (he favors salmon pink, lilac, and pistachio green) and his delicate figures with their gentle features and restrained gestures. Below the miniature is a border of strewn flowers and berries. Such trompe-l'oeil borders would become a popular feature of Flemish manuscripts. Painted around 1480, this codex reveals Marmion to be an early master of these foliate marvels.

All Martyrs
Da Costa Hours, in Latin
Belgium, Bruges, ca. 1515
Illuminated by Simon Bening, (1483/84-1561)
6 3/4 x 5 inches (172 x 125 mm)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1910; MS M.399, fol. 295v

Known as the Da Costa Hours after its second owner, Don Alvaro da Costa, chamberlain to King Manuel I of Portugal, this masterpiece is by Flanders's last great illuminator, Simon Bening. Among other elements, Bening is known for religious scenes infused with quiet dignity, solid figure types, lush landscapes, trompe-l'oeil borders, and keen observation of detail. This striking miniature includes all these characteristics. The image, marking the start of a prayer to all martyrs, illustrates the numerous ways by which Christians have been put to death for their faith over the centuries.

Flight into Egypt
Book of Hours, in Latin
Belgium, Bruges, ca. 1520
Illuminated by Simon Bening (1483/84-1561)
80 x 60 mm.
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1907; MS M.307, fol. 71v

Simon Bening's illumination in this codex is extremely delicate. The landscape is more advanced than than in the Da Costa Hours and subtler than in the equally small Van Damme Hours. This may be partially due to Bening's greater participation in the book, relying less on workshop assistance. Shown here is The Flight into Egypt, which exemplifies Bening's keen interest in depicting landscape and weather conditions. The miniature also attests to his attention to detail: note, to the right of the Virgin's head, the tiny gold statue that has toppled from the column on the hill. The idol's fall symbolizes the collapse of the old pagan world.


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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.