St. Nicholas Delivering the Dowry to the Three Poor Maidens
Prayer Book of Anne de Bretagne
Illuminated by Jean Poyer
The Pierpont Morgan Library, Purchased in 1905
This prayer book was commissioned by Anne de Bretagne, wife of two successive kings of France, Charles VIII and Louis XII, to teach her son, the dauphin Charles-Orland (1492–1495), his catechism. It was painted in Tours by Jean Poyer, an artist documented as working for the queen. The book is richly illustrated, and its thirty-four airy, light-flooded miniatures are among the most delicate examples of late-fifteenth-century art.
St. Nicholas Delivering the Dowry to the Three Poor Maidens (fol. 14v, left)
Nicholas, who inherited wealth from his parents, secretly delivers bags of gold to an impoverished nobleman to provide marriage dowries for his three daughters, so they may find husbands.
Without a dowry (the money or other valuable gift that a woman brings to her husband in marriage), these poor women would have been forced into prostitution. Nicholas piously saved them from such a sinful fate.