MS M.917/945, pp. 146–149

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Holy Family at Work

The Netherlands, Utrecht
ca. 1440
7 1/2 x 5 1/8 inches (192 x 130 mm)

Purchased on the Belle da Costa Greene Fund with the assistance of the Fellows, 1963

MS M.917/945, pp. 146–149

This charming scene is easily the most cherished of all the miniatures from Catherine's prayer book. Within a domestic interior scattered with tools and utensils, the Virgin weaves, baby Jesus takes his first steps in a walker, and Joseph planes a board. The wood resembles the beam of a cross and thus alludes to Christ's forthcoming death. But for now the child offers consolation: "I am your solace" is written on the scroll Christ unfurls to his mother.

Hours and Masses for the Seven Days of the Week

The most unusual texts in Catherine's manuscript are the series of Hours and Masses for every day of the week. Medieval Christian tradition associated certain figures or themes with different days. Thus Sunday, the day of the Resurrection, was the Lord's Day; Thursday was connected with the Eucharist since that sacrament was instituted on Holy Thursday; and Monday was the day of the dead, since their torments were suspended on Sunday but recommenced the following day. In Catherine's prayer book, the themes for the Hours and Masses of the seven days of the week are:

Sunday the Trinity
Monday the Dead
Tuesday the Holy Spirit
Wednesday All Saints
Thursday the Blessed Sacrament
Friday the Compassion of God
Saturday the Virgin.

Image courtesy of Faksimile Verlag Luzern