This luxurious book of hours painted by one of the Masters of the Beady Eyes in Bruges was made for a knight around 1460. The large decorated margins are opulent with a delightful array of flowers and fruit, a magnificent peacock, and other birds. Generous amounts of burnished gold adorn the miniatures, margins, initials, and line-fillers that structure and decorate the carefully written text. The manuscript is in exceptionally fine condition.

ii (parchment) + 239 + i (parchment) folios on parchment, modern foliation in pencil in the bottom corner of each leaf, 1-239, lacking one leaf with a miniature (collation: i6 ii6 [+7, one inserted leaf with a miniature, f. 13] iii8 [+/-6, lacking one leaf with a miniature, which was inserted after f. 18] iv8 [+6, one inserted leaf with a miniature, f. 27] v8 [+5, one inserted leaf with a miniature, f. 35] vi-vii8 viii8 [+2, one inserted leaf with a miniature, f. 57] ix8 [+7, one inserted leaf with a miniature, f. 71] x8 [+4, one inserted leaf with a miniature, f. 77] xi8 [+1, +7, two inserted leaves with miniatures, ff. 83, 89] xii8 [+3, one inserted leaf with a miniature, f. 95] xiii8 [+4, one inserted leaf with a miniature, f. 105] xiv8 [+2, one inserted leaf with a miniature, f. 112] xv8 [+7, one inserted leaf with a miniature, f. 126] xvi-xvii8 xviii8 [+7, one inserted leaf with a miniature, f. 151] xix-xxv8 xxvi8 [+1, one inserted leaf with a miniature, f. 210] xxvii-xxviii8 xxix4 xxx2 [f. 239 + end flyleaf]), horizontal catchwords, partly cropped, leaf signatures, mostly cropped, ruled in red ink (justification 125 x 90mm.), written in brown ink in gothic bookhand (textualis) on 16 lines, capitals touched in yellow wash, 1-line initials alternating in burnished gold or blue with pen-flourishing in black or red respectively, very fine line-fillers in burnished gold and blue throughout, 2-line champie initials in burnished gold on dark pink and blue grounds throughout, two 4-line champie initials in burnished gold on dark pink and blue grounds with hairline tendrils extending to margins, 15 decorated initials (5-lines high) with foliage or flower motifs against burnished gold infill, 14 FULL-PAGE MINIATURES, 29 FULL BORDERS decorated with interlocking acanthus vines and leaves, flowers, fruit, and gold-leaf spraywork, with generous use of burnished and liquid gold, in pristine condition. Bound in the contemporary or original dark brown vellum over wooden boards, both covers blind-tooled with rolls with fleur-de-lys, brass clasps and catches replaced, spine with five raised bands, restored, gilt edges, several placemarks in green silk, leather on the original covers worn, and the stitching that attaches the text block to the spine has loosened, otherwise in very good condition. Dimensions 220 x 160 mm.


1. The painting style can be identified with the Masters of the Beady Eyes, situating the making of this manuscript in Bruges around 1460. In addition to the miniature style, the margins of the manuscript incorporate trefoil blossoms with blue or dark pink tips that are typical of Bruges manuscripts.

The manuscript was destined for use in the francophone region of the Southern Netherlands extending to northern France.  The litany of the virgins includes the local St. Amalberga of Maubeuge, and the calendar has several other local saints. Among the most important feast days transcribed in red are the joint feast of St. Amand, bishop of Tongeren-Maastricht (venerated in Flanders and Picardy) and St. Vedast of Arras (6 Feb), the joint feast of St. Remi of Reims and St. Bavo of Ghent in red (1 Oct), the feast of St. Donatian of Reims, whose relics are at Bruges, where, in addition to Reims, he was locally venerated (14 Oct), and the feast of St. Nicasius, bishop and patron saint of Reims (14 Dec). The importance of Reims is explained by the fact that the ecclesiastical province of Reims extended (until 1559) to several dioceses in Southern Netherlands, including those of Ghent, Bruges and Tournai. The calendar also includes the local saints Gudula, the patron saint of Brussels (8 Jan), Aldegonde of Maubeuge (30 Jan), Gertrude of Nivelles in Walloon Brabant (17 Mar), Landoaldus, missionary of the Low Countries along with St. Amand (19 Mar, 10 June), Gudwal, whose relics are in Ghent (6 June), Lambert of Maastricht (17 Sep), Merodius, martyr and bishop of Bruges (26 Sept), Winnoc of Bergues (near Dunkirk; 6 Nov), and Livinus, bishop and patron saint of Ghent (12 Nov).

The selection of saints in the suffrages strongly suggests that the manuscript was made for a knight. Several military saints are included: George, Sebastian, Adrian, Michael, Martin, Quentin, Barbara, and James (whose veneration by soldiers is explained by his miraculous apparition at the mythical Battle of Clavijo in the ninth century). The prayers to saints at the end of the book, on ff. 218-230v, include the locally venerated saints Leonard of Avranches, Quentin of Amiens, Hubert of Liège, Loup of Troyes and Waltrude of Mons.  St. Loup of Troyes was undoubtedly included because he is a “healing” saint, St. Leonard, because he is the patron saint of prisoners, and St. Hubert of Liège, because he is the patron saint of hunting.  The grammatical forms in the Marian prayer Obsecro te confirm that the manuscript was made for a man.

 2. In the eighteenth century, a summary of the contents was written in French on the first front flyleaf: “Les Saintes Evangiles pour la naissance de Jesus Christ. Offices de la Sainte Croix, du Saint Esprit, de la Sainte Vierge pour les differens tems de l’année et celuÿ des Morts. Avec les Sept Pseaumes penitentiaux de David, plusieurs Oraisons a la Sainte Vierge, et le Simbole de Saint Atanase.”

 3. Modern bookseller’s note “2509/1” on the front pastedown.


ff. 1-12v, Calendar; 

f. 13, blank;

ff. 13v-18v, Gospel sequences (ff. 13v-15, John; ff. 15-16v, Luke; ff. 16v-18, Matthew; f. 18r-v, Mark);

ff. 19-26v, Hours of the Cross, lacking the opening miniature of the Crucifixion;

f. 27, blank;

ff. 27v-34v, Hours of the Holy Spirit; 

f. 35, blank; 

ff. 35v-112, Hours of the Virgin, use of Rome, with ff. 35v- 56v, Matins, f. 57, blank, ff. 57v-70v, Lauds, f. 71, blank, ff. 71v-76v, Prime, f. 77, blank, ff. 77v-82v, Terce, f. 83, blank, ff. 83v-88v, Sext, f. 89, blank, ff. 89v-94v, None, f. 95, blank, ff. 95v-104, Vespers, ff. 104v-105, blank,

ff. 105v-112, Compline; 

The text is use of Rome, with Prime antiphon, “Assumpta est,” capitulum, “Que est,” None antiphon, “Pulchra es,” capitulum, “In plateis”; see Madan, 1927, p. 23.

ff. 112v-125, Office of the Virgin in Advent, “Incipit officium beate marie virginis quod dicitur per totum adventum”; 

ff. 125v-126, blank; 

ff. 126v-139v, Seven Penitential Psalms; 

ff. 139v-150, Litanies, followed by prayers; 

ff. 150v-151, blank; 

ff. 151v-199v, Office of the Dead, use of Rome; 

f. 201r-v, blank; 

ff. 202-206, Obsecro te, masculine forms; 

ff. 206-209, O intemerata

ff. 209v-210, blank; 

ff. 210v-214, Prayers to the Virgin Mary, in French and Latin: ff. 210v-212, Oroison de nostre dame, incipit, “Doulce dame, je me restongnois [reconnais] vostre serviteur…”; ff. 212-213, Salve Regina, incipit, “Salve, Regina, [mater] misericordie. Vita, dulcedo et spes nostra, salve….”, followed by the Ave Maria, Et puis cy après cincq fois cest Ave Maria, incipit, “Ave Maria, gratia plena…,” a verse to be said standing up, On doit dire ce verset tout droit. Versus, incipit, “Ora pro nobis, sancta Dei Genitrix…,” and a prayer said kneeling, Après à mettre à genous. Oratio, “Deus qui caritatis dona…,” with an “.N.” for the name of the supplicant to be inserted while praying; ff. 213-214, three short prayers to Christ, “Concede nos famulos tuos, quesumus, Domine Deus…,” “In effabilem tuam misericordiam…,” and “Salva me Domine rex eterne glorie”; 

ff. 214-217v, A prayer to St. Anne, “Gaude Anna mater matris Domini nostri…,” followed by a prayer to Christ and Psalm 91; 

ff. 217v-218v, the Seven verses of St. Bernard; 

ff. 218-230v, Prayers to saints Anthony, Leonard of Avranches, George, Lawrence, Sebastian, Adrian, Quentin of Amiens, Hubert of Liège, John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, Michael, Giles, Catherine, Barbara, Apolline, Nicholas, Martin, Agnes, (another prayer to) Hubert of Liège, Loup of Troyes, the Archangel Gabriel, James, and Waltrude of Mons;

ff. 231-233v, Prayer of the Venerable Bede, incipit, “Domine Jesu Christe, qui septem verba…”;

ff. 233v-239, Athanasian Creed, followed by the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus, two short prayers, and a prayer to be said during Mass, “Ceste oroison doit on dire au sacrament de la messe si acquiert on cent Jours pardon. Ave verum corpus Domini nostri Ihesu Christi…”;

f. 239v, blank.  


Fourteen full-page miniatures, framed by borders formed of large bands alternating in dark pink and blue with ornamentation in gold, outlined with narrow gold bands, and diamond-shaped corner pieces; with full borders surrounding the miniatures and on the facing text pages of interlocking acanthus stems (in blue, red, pink, green and gold), a peacock and other birds (some interacting), a signature motif of a half-ripened strawberry (half-yellow-half-red), roses, daisies, columbine, thistles, carrot flowers, pimpernels, bluebells, and gold-leaf spraywork, framed by a gold band; subjects as follows: 

f. 13v, The four Evangelists; 

f. 27v, Pentecost; 

f. 35v, Annunciation to the Virgin;

f. 57v, Visitation; 

f. 71v, Nativity of Christ; 

f. 77v, Annunciation to the Shepherds;

f. 83v, Adoration of the Magi;

f. 89v, Presentation in the Temple;

f. 95v, Massacre of the Innocents;

f. 105v, Flight to Egypt;

f. 112v, Coronation of the Virgin;

f. 126v, Last Judgment;

f. 151v, Resurrection of Lazarus;

f. 209v, Virgin and Child with an angel.

The miniatures are painted by one of the Masters of the Beady Eyes (les Maîtres aux yeux bridés), illuminators active in Bruges c. 1440-1470 and contemporaries of Willem Vrelant. Their name of convenience derives from the way in which they drew the eyes of their figures. They were followers of the Gold Scrolls Masters, active in Bruges from the 1420s to the early 1450s, from whom they derived most of their compositions. Compare, for instance, the composition of the Virgin and Child with an angel (f. 209v) with the same subject painted by the Gold Scrolls Masters in Les Enluminures, BOH 162 (Fig. 1). The motif of an angel offering fruit to the Christ Child in this composition (the detail, which is lost in the derivative version in our manuscript) was common in the second decade of the fifteenth century (cf. e.g. the Virgin and Child in the Busseul Hours painted in Ghent before 1419, Brussels, KBR, ms. IV, 179, f. 126) and was often used by the Gold Scrolls Masters group; it originates in Paris, where it was most probably invented by the Boucicaut Master (Bousmanne, 1989, p. 260, n. 48).

Indoor scenes in our manuscript are enhanced with floors made of richly decorated tiles and walls of glittering mosaics; the figures are draped in garments embroidered in gold. The textile pattern made of dotted circles that decorates the rose-colored fabric covering the Virgin’s bed in the Nativity and the Adoration (ff. 71v, 83v) also derives from the Gold Scrolls Masters, and was originally invented by the Boucicaut Master (see Bousmanne, 1989, p. 259). In outdoor scenes, our artist introduced depth to his miniatures by color perspective, arranging intense colors in the foreground, set off against more muted tones in the background. Note also that illuminators in Bruges habitually placed the Coronation of the Virgin at the head of the Office of the Virgin in Advent, and the Flight into Egypt at Compline in the Hours of the Virgin, as in our manuscript.

Our artist can be compared with an artist from the same group who painted Les Enluminures, BOH 184 (Fig. 2). The eyes are similarly drawn as narrow slits with heavy upper eyelids and high eyebrows sketched with fine lines of brown paint. The hair of the figures is likewise formed with strokes parting straight upwards from the hairline. The secondary decoration in BOH 184, especially the line-fillers and the pen flourishing on small initials, is very close to that of our manuscript, suggesting that they both were made in the same workshop (Fig. 3). Our manuscript can also be compared with another book of hours painted by this group of artists and sold by Les Enluminures, BOH 163. The facial features are very similar, as well as decorative patterns, such as the sunray motif in burnished gold, decorating the canopy over the throne of Herod on f. 95v in our manuscript and the canopy over the Virgin and Child in Les Enluminures, BOH 163 (Fig. 4).


As-Vijvers, A. and A. Korteweg, eds. Splendour of the Burgundian Netherlands, Utrecht, Zwolle, The Hague, 2018, pp. 304-5, 374.

Bousmanne, B. and T. Delcourt, eds. Miniatures flamandes, 1404-1482, Paris and Brussels, 2011.

Bousmanne, B. “Remarques sur la décoration marginale d’un livre d’heures de la Bibliothèque Ambrosienne (Milan, Bibliothèque Ambrosienne, ms. S.P. 12),” Aevum 63:2 (1989), pp. 252-264. 

Cardon, B., Lievens, R. and Smeyers, M. “The Illustrations and the Gold Scrolls Group,” Typologische Tafeleren uit het Leven van Jesus [Typological scenes from the Life of Christ]: A Manuscript from the Gold Scrolls Group (Bruges, c. 1440) in the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, MS. Morgan 649, Corpus of Illuminated Manuscripts from the Low Countries 1, Louvain, 1985, pp. 119–204.

Clark, G. “Mass production: The Masters of the Gold Scrolls,” Splendour of the Burgundian Netherlands, As-Vijvers, A. M. W. and Korteweg, A. S., eds, Utrecht, Zwolle, The Hague, 2018, pp. 96-109.

Delaissé, L. La miniature flamande, Brussels, 1950.

Dogaer, G. Flemish Miniature Painting in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries, Amsterdam, 1987.

Farquhar, J. Creation and Imitation: The Work of a Fifteenth-Century Manuscript Illuminator, Fort Lauderdale, 1976.

Kren, T. and S. McKendrick. Illuminating the Renaissance: The Triumph of Flemish Manuscript Painting in Europe, Los Angeles and London, 2003 

Madan, F. “The Localization of Manuscripts,” Essays in History Presented to Reginald Lane Poole, Oxford, 1927, pp. 5-29.

Winkler, F. Die Flämische Buchmalerei des XV. und XVI. Jahrhunderts: Künstler und Werke von den Brüdern Van Eyck bis zu Simon Bening, Leipzig, 1925.


Virtual exhibition “Miniatures flamandes, 1404-1482” (BNF, KBR, 2011):


BOH 189

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