Purchased on the Belle da Costa Greene Fund with the assistance of the Fellows, 1963
Three silver fish are entwined in the border below Peter, a fisherman before heeding the call of Christ and a fisher of men thereafter. In the miniature, the bearded apostle stands on a tiled floor before a textile background, a common setting for the images of saints in the Suffrages of Catherine's Book of Hours. The first pope, Peter, is clothed in priestly garb and carries a book and a large key . The key to the kingdom of heaven was promised to him by Christ in Matthew 16:19.
Suffrages are short prayers to individual saints. As protectors of medieval people, saints were their doctor in plague, their midwife at childbirth, their guardian when traveling, and their nurse during toothache. If the Virgin was the figure to whom one addressed the all-important petition for eternal salvation, it was from saints that one sought more basic or temporal kinds of help. While the Virgin became, as the Mother of God, almost a goddess herself, saints retained more of their humanity and thus their approachability.
Image courtesy of Faksimile Verlag Luzern