Fascinating Book of Hours that includes a rare, early depiction of a game of cards, in addition to other engaging details, involving monkeys, musicians, and dancers often in comic poses or situations.  A tantalizing visual reference to a broken heart appears amongst the marginalia.  The manuscript is illuminated by an anonymous artist close to the leading illuminators who worked in Angers and Tours at the time of René of Anjou and Jean Fouquet.  In the absence of concrete evidence, we can only imagine who was the original brokenhearted owner.

ii (paper) + ii (parchment) + 131 + i (parchment) + iii (paper) folios on parchment, modern foliation in pencil, 1-131, lacking calendar, as well as Matins and Lauds in the Hours of the Virgin, and nine other leaves with miniatures (collation: i6 [-1, lacking one leaf before f. 1, with loss of text] ii10 [-1, -5, 9, lacking three leaves after ff. 5, 8, 11, with loss of text] iii6 iv1 v8 [the leaves in this quire were rebound in incorrect order; the correct order is: ff. 23, 22, 21, 20, 27, 26, 25, 24] vi10 [-2, -10, lacking two leaves after ff. 28 and 35, with loss of text] vii4 viii8 [-2, lacking one leaf after f. 40, with loss of text] ix-x8 xi8 [-7, lacking one leaf after f. 68, with loss of text] xii-xviii8 xix6 [lacking a final quire]), horizontal catchwords in cursive hand in brown ink (ff. 19v, 24v, 77v, 85v, 93v, 101v, 109v, 117v), ruled in red ink (justification 93 x 65 mm.), written in brown ink in gothic textualis bookhand on 13 lines, capitals touched in yellow wash, 1-line champie initials and line-fillers in burnished gold on pink and blue grounds, 2-line initials alternating in pink and blue, decorated with white penwork, on gold grounds and with flowers and acanthus leaves extending from the initials into the margins in liquid and burnished gold and colors, seven historiated initials with ¾ floral rinceaux borders, four full-page miniatures with full floral borders incorporating rare depictions of everyday life, such as card-playing, and other scenes that display the keen observation of the artist; paint slightly flaked in miniatures, water damage in the margins of the first seven leaves, lower corner of f. 9 cut off, a slit in the inner margin of f. 41, a small hole on f. 63, but otherwise in good condition. Bound c. 1900 in cream-colored parchment over pasteboards, spine delightfully painted with flowers and acanthus leaves inspired by the original decoration inside the book, and an inscription in red “Lectio”, modern case; the paint is partially faded, otherwise in excellent condition. Dimensions 178 x 130 mm. 


1. The manuscript was made for use in the diocese of Tours. Although it is lacking its calendar, and the Office of the Dead follows an unrecorded liturgical use, it is possible to localize the manuscript’s destination by its litanies. Martin of Tours and Gatianus of Tours are the first two saints named among confessors. Other local saints are St. Julian of Le Mans, St. Maurilius, bishop of Angers, St. Arnoul of Yvelines, who was a bishop of Tours, St. Hilary, bishop of Poitiers, and St. Radegund of Poitiers. Suffrages are included for St. Martin of Tours and St. Eutropius; the latter was especially venerated in Limousin, in southwest-central France, where there was a Romanesque church dedicated to this saint. The manuscript was illuminated most probably in Angers around 1465 by a follower of the Master of Adelaïde of Savoy and the Master of the Geneva Boccaccio (see below).  The Hours of the Virgin are for the liturgical use of Paris, which might indicate that the patron resided both in Tours and Paris, possibly someone attached to the royal court. The inclusion of the rare Hours of St. Catherine indicates special devotion to this saint (ff. 120-127). Furthermore, Catherine appears immediately after saints Mary Magdalene, Mary the Egyptian and Anna in the litanies. Other clues for the original owner of the book are discussed below.

An inscription in a nineteenth-century hand on f. 68v: “Livre appertient à moi... [illegible].”

2. A small printed label “Ph. Loiseleur des Longchamps” with the date “1974” inscribed below it in pencil on the second end-leaf.

3. A note pasted on the verso of the first flyleaf: “Herité de Christiane de Parcevaux, née Gouzil ma mère/ Est. Drouot 1997 60.000 fr.”


ff. 1-28v, Hours of the Virgin, use of Paris; lacking Matins and Lauds; ff. 1-5v, Prime, begins imperfectly, lacking a leaf before f. 1 with a miniature (likely the Nativity), the opening words, and the hymn; ff. 6-8v, Terce, begins imperfectly, lacking a leaf after f. 5 with a miniature (likely the Annunciation to Shepherds), the opening words, and the hymn, and ending imperfectly, lacking a leaf after f. 8 with a prayer at the conclusion of Terce and the beginning of Sext; ff. 9-11v, Sext, begins imperfectly, lacking a leaf after f. 8 with a miniature (likely the Adoration of the Magi) and some of the opening words, and ending imperfectly, lacking a leaf after f. 11 with a prayer ending Sext and the beginning of None; ff. 12-15, None, begins imperfectly, lacking a leaf after f. 11 with a miniature (likely the Presentation at the Temple), and some of the opening words; Vespers, now bound incorrectly, correct order of leaves is ff. 15v-19v, 23rv, 22rv, 21rv, so that f. 23, which has the Marian prayer Ave Maris Stella, continues on f. 22, f. 22, which contains the canticle Magnificat, continues on f. 21, f. 20, which begins Compline, was bound in error after f. 19; Compline, also bound incorrectly, correct order of the leaves, ff. 20rv, 27rv, 26rv, 25rv, 24rv, 28rv; 

ff. 29-35v, Hours of the Cross, begins imperfectly; lacking a leaf after f. 28 with a miniature (likely the Crucifixion), the opening words, and the hymn for Matins (on f. 29v, at the beginning of Prime, the scribe mistakenly wrote a rubric for the hour of Terce; Terce begins on f. 31), and ending imperfectly, lacking a leaf after f. 35 with a prayer ending Compline (preceded by an antiphon, versicle and response), and the beginning of the Hours of the Holy Spirit (see below); 

ff. 36-40v, Hours of the Holy spirit, begins imperfectly, lacking a leaf after f. 35 with a miniature (likely the Pentecost), the opening words, and the hymn for Matins; 

ff. 41-43, Obsecro te, masculine forms; begins imperfectly, “//conceptus est filius dei...”; lacking a leaf after f. 40 with an opening full-page miniature of the Virgin and Child (possibly with the original owner of the book) and c. 14 lines of text (the opening words below the miniature and one text page on the verso); 

ff. 43v-46v, the Marian prayer Saluto te beatissima virgo Maria, with feminine forms (with masculine declensions added in tiny contemporary cursive script above the words), followed by prayers to St. Mary Magdalene and St. Margaret; 

ff. 47-61v, Penitential Psalms; 

ff. 61v-68v, Litanies; 

ff. 69-119v, Office of the Dead, unrecorded use (Ottosen responsory numbers: 72-14-0-[unrecorded: “Recorderis peccata mea”]-24-68-28-46-38, a series that shares several responsories with a group of manuscripts destined for Paris and its region: in these the responsories to the first and second readings are identical, and those to 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th readings in our manuscript correspond to those for 6, 7, 9, 10, 11 in the Paris use); begins imperfectly: lacking a leaf after f. 68 with the opening miniature, the antiphon, and the first five verses of psalm 114; 

ff. 120-127, the Hours of St. Catherine;

ff. 127-131v, Suffrages of saints John the Baptist, Peter and Paul, Michael, Sebastian, Lawrence, Anthony, Stephen, Martin and Eutropius; ends imperfectly, lacking at least one leaf at the end. 


Four full-page miniatures; subjects as follows: 

f. 15v, Flight to Egypt; 

f. 20, Coronation of the Virgin; 

f. 47, David in prayer; David and Goliath in the background; 

f. 120, St. Catherine. 

Seven historiated initials; subjects as follows: 

f. 29v, Christ before Pilate; 

f. 31, Carrying of the Cross; 

f. 32, Christ nailed to the Cross; 

f. 33, Crucifixion;

f. 34v, Descent from the Cross;

f. 35v, Burial of Christ;

f. 128, St. Michael holding the slayed dragon in chains.

The manuscript was illuminated around 1465, probably in Angers, by an anonymous artist working in the entourage of the Master of Adélaïde of Savoy, the Master of the Geneva Boccaccio and the Master of Marguerite of Orleans. His style, compositions, and iconography share elements with these three illuminators, who all collaborated with each other on different occasions in Angers. Firstly, the physiognomies of the figures painted by our artist resemble those of the Master of Adélaïde of Savoy: a linear, almost geometric construction of the bodies, and soft, oval faces with high foreheads, especially for the ladies and angels; see St. Catherine (f. 120) and the Virgin and angels in the Coronation (f. 20). The Master of Adélaïde of Savoy, also known as the Master of MS Poitiers 30, was named after a Book of Hours which at one time belonged to Marie-Adélaïde of Savoy (1685-1712), Duchess of Burgundy (Chantilly, Musée Condé, MS 76; Online Resources). This artist was active around 1450-1480, first in Angers in the entourage of the Jouvenel Master and his followers, and later in Poitiers.  In MS Rothschild 2534 in the French National Library in Paris he collaborated with the Master of Marguerite of Orleans, an incredibly inventive artist, whose influence on our illuminator can be seen especially in the wonderfully expressive St. Joseph he depicted in profile in the Flight to Egypt (f. 15v); compare it, for instance, with the men in the opening miniature, or the old man in the margin above it, painted by the Master of Marguerite of Orleans in Boccaccio’s On the Fates of Famous Men and Women in Chantilly (Musée Condé, MS 858, f. 1; Online Resources) (fig. 1).

The composition of St. Catherine seated in a chapel, the most tender of the surviving miniatures, derives directly from the same subject painted by the Master of the Geneva Boccaccio in the so-called Hours of Marie Stuart (Christie’s, London, 6 July 2011, lot 16; Online Resources) (fig. 2). Every detail of the image was closely copied, including the physiognomy of the saint. However, as can also be observed in comparison with the Master of Adélaïde of Savoy, our illuminator has a different way of applying paint with flatter modeling, and his colors are more muted and sober. The so-called Hours of Marie Stuart can be dated towards 1465, which is probably also the date of our manuscript. That our artist collaborated with the Master of the Geneva Boccaccio, probably as an assistant, is further suggested by another direct borrowing. The grotesque resembling an elephant that plays a psalterium on f. 120 derives from the Master of Geneva Boccaccio, who painted it around 1460-1465 in the margin of the frontispiece to Flavio Bondo’s De Roma triumphante (Portugal, Lisbon, National Library, MS il. 92, f. 1).

The marginal scenes in our manuscript are especially captivating. There are two gentlemen dancing around a lady, while a musician plays a three-holed pipe called galoupet and a tabor (tambourin) (f. 47). Elsewhere, a monkey holds a pair of eyeglasses to peer at the backside of another leaning down to pick up a lamp (f. 15v).  However, the most significant image in the margins is a rare and early depiction of a couple playing cards (f. 47). It echoes an image of the same pass-time painted five to ten years earlier by the Dunois Master to illustrate the poem “Belle dame qui eut merci” by Oton de Grandson (New Haven, Yale University Library, MS 1216, f. 102; Online Resources) (fig. 3). In both images the oval shape of the cards corresponds to that of an actual set of cards from c. 1475-1480 conserved at the Cloisters Museum in New York (Online Resources). These illustrations belong within a larger ambiance of depictions of games developed in manuscripts made within the Angers-Tours-Poitiers triangle, especially in the so-called Hours of Adélaïde of Savoy and a Book of Hours by another follower of the Adélaïde Master (Spain, Madrid, National Library,  MS Vitr. 25-3). Both manuscripts include calendars that delight with their rare depictions of medieval games, including, in the Madrid book, the only known representation of the Valentine’s day game referred to by both Christine de Pisan and Charles d’Orléans, in which the players would draw a card with the name of their partner (for a study and images of this manuscript, see Gras, 2014).

In the miniatures of our manuscript, the artist’s keen eye for detail is further demonstrated by the inclusion of a plectrum attached to David’s harp (f. 47), another loan that probably derived from the Parisian Dunois Master who included it on f. 88 in Oxford, Keble College, MS 39. Finally, our artist’s small initial of St. Michael, opening the series of Suffrages, is worth noting. The blue ground framing the initial is delicately decorated in camaïeu d’or with apes and curling acanthus (f. 128).  Initials of this type also appear in the Suffrages of BnF, MS Rothschild 2534, mentioned above, which was illuminated by the Master of Adelaïde of Savoy. Both likely derive from the subtlety displayed in the decorated initials of the Hours of Etienne Chevalier.  The background inside the initial inverses the colors with the stylized fleur-de-lis in blue on a solid gold ground, the decor referring to the royal order of St. Michael. The dragon is immobilized under Michael’s lance, quite convincingly depicted with foreshortening.

Who was this manuscript made for? Several enigmatic details on the leaf beginning the Penitential Psalms suggest that the owner was a man with a broken heart (f. 47). The initial contains a pierced heart inside two entwined bands forming a love knot. In the margin below two men are dancing around a woman, and one of them wears a hat crowned with a cockerel, signifying that he is a coquart or cuckold. The musician plays the flute and the tambourin, which the poet François Villon (1431-after 1463) used with the meaning of “playing around.”  Villon associated the mixing of cards, also depicted on this page, in his poetry with the act of scorning. Below the couple playing cards, a nude rides backwards, signifying vilification, on a black bird and picks an ancolie, which represents melancholy. In the inner margin, there is a grotesque, a mixed creature between a man and a donkey, with black ears of a jackass, admiring himself in a black mirror. Below, there is a black monkey. Could the original owner have been a man, who was full of regrets? The Psalm begins plaintively, “Out of the depths I cry to thee O Lord! Lord, hear my voice!” He was courting a woman around whom many danced, but he suffered from several vile faults: vanity, scorn, sexual appetite. It is even possible that the woman who rejected his affections and for whom he will pine forever was named Catherine, as suggested by the graying hair of the saint in the miniature of St. Catherine. 


Avril, F. and N. Reynaud. Les Manuscrits à peintures en France, 1440-1520, Paris, 1993, pp. 123-126. 

Avril, F. Jean Fouquet, peintre et enlumineur du xve siècle, Paris, 2003. 

Day, V. “Manuscript Production in Fifteenth-Century Poitiers,” Doctoral thesis, Northwestern University, 1993. 

Gras, S. “Les Heures de Madrid: Un exceptionnel manuscrit inspiré par Jean Fouquet et le Maître de Jouvenel,” Art de l’enluminure 50, 2014, pp. 2-73. 

König, E. Französiche Buchmalerei um 1450: Der Jouvenal-Maler, der Maler des Genfer Boccaccio und die Anfänge Jean Fouquets, Berlin, 1982, pp. 33, 93, 108, 225-231, 235-237, 256.

König, E. Les Heures de Marguerite d’Orléans, Paris, 1991.

König, E. Der Meister von Poitiers 30: ein unbekanntes Gegenstück zum Stundenbuch der Adelaide von Savoyen mit farbiger Wiedergabe aller Seiten in Originalgrösse (Katalog Heribert Tenschert 57), Ramsen, 2006.

Ottosen, K. The Responsories and Versicles of the Latin Office of the Dead, Aarhus, 1993.

Online Resources

Chantilly, Musée Condé, MS 76 (fully digitized)

Chantilly, Musée Condé, MS 858 (fully digitized)

Christie’s, London, 6 July 2011, lot 16

New Haven, Yale University Library, MS 1216 (fully digitized)

The Cloisters Playing Cards

BOH 187

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