The Prayer Book of Claude de France is a tiny, jewel-like manuscript that was made for Claude (1499-1524) around 1517, the year she was crowned queen of France. Her coat of arms appears on three different folios. The book is richly illustrated: the borders of each leaf are painted, front and back, with 132 scenes from the lives of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and numerous saints. The manuscript and a companion Book of Hours also made for the queen (in a Paris private collection) were illuminated by an artist who was given the nickname Master of Claude de France after these two volumes. Active in the French city of Tours during the first quarter of the sixteenth century, the artist worked in a style that can be characterized as the pinnacle of elegance. The colors of his delicate palette are applied in tiny, seemingly invisible brushstrokes. Only about a dozen manuscripts painted by the artist survive.
In 1514, at age fourteen, Claude de France was married to François d'Angoulême (1494-1547), who became King François I in 1515. The marriage was political: Claude was duchess of Brittany, a duchy the king wanted to keep under his control. Short and hunched, Claude still managed to provide seven children (her second son became King Henry II) in ten years of marriage before dying of exhaustion at age twenty-four.
The Prayer Book of Claude de France (MS M.1166) is the gift of Mrs. Alexandre P. Rosenberg in memory of her husband Alexandre Paul Rosenberg, 2008.
Ms. prayer book; written and illuminated in Tours, France, ca. 1517.
Decoration: 132 miniatures; the narrative scenes overlapped in trompe-l'oeil by placards carrying the text and almost all framed by the Franciscan cordelière.
Artist: Master of Claude de France (named after this codex and a companion Book of Hours made for the queen, formerly in a private collection in Paris and now owned by the dealer Heribert Tenschert).
The master's identity has been tentatively linked to Eloi Tassart documented in Tours from 1517 to 1528 and called "painter of the queen" from 1521-1523. No works can be definitely ascribed to him however. See R. Wieck, Miracles, p. 58.
A censor's notation was added in Spain in the 16th or 17th century on fol. 53v, " [sign of the cross] vistas licen[tia]tus Roche Inqui[s]i[to]r." See R. Wieck, Miracles, p. 24, 26, fig., 32.
Bookplate of Alexandre Paul Rosenberg designed by Pablo Picasso inside front cover.
Prayer book of Queen Claude de France
Claude de France prayer book