This is a lovely and entirely unpublished Book of Hours with illuminations in the Ghent-Bruges manner, including scatter borders of strewn flowers and drolleries.  Its painting is attributed to the Master of the Prayerbooks of 1500, an illuminator whose elegant and courtly style is found in a group of prayerbooks painted at the turn of the century, as well as some important secular manuscripts.  Our artist collaborated with others on the famous Rothschild Prayerbook.  Apart from its fresh and appealing paintings, one of the distinctive features of the present manuscript is its contemporary “coffret,” a custom-made casket intended to store the book and permit its transport from location to location.  The manuscript was made for a Spaniard, possibly at the court of Isabelle of Aragon in Bari, and later in the sixteenth century was given to the famous Spanish scholar and archbishop of Toledo, Garcia de Loaisa Giron, tutor of Philip III.

ii + 228 + ii folios on parchment, lacking 10 miniatures, otherwise complete and all full-page miniatures are singletons (collation i12 ii10 [-4, lacking the miniature on a singleton before f. 16] iii10 [-9, lacking the miniature on a singleton before f. 30] iv8 v9 [-3, lacking the miniature on a singleton before f. 41] vi-viii8 ix10 [-8, lacking the miniature on a singleton before f. 78] x2 xi9 [-6, lacking the miniature on a singleton before f. 86] xii9 xiii10 [-7, lacking the miniature on a singleton before f. 105] xiv9 [-7, lacking the miniature on a singleton before f. 114] xv-xvi8 xvii9 [-3, lacking the miniature on a singleton before f. 134] xviii4 xix-xxii8 xxiii9 xxiv9 [-2, lacking the miniature on a singleton before f. 186] xxv9 [-1, lacking the miniature on a singleton before f. 193] xxvi-xxviii8 xxix4), horizontal catchwords, ruled in pale red ink (justification: 80 x 49 mm.), copied in a gotica rotunda on seventeen long lines, red rubrics, 1- and 2-line initials in gold on alternating red or blue grounds throughout, 3- and 4-line initials in gold with blue grounds, 15 6-line initials in gold, red and blue grounds, EIGHT FULL-PAGE MINIATURES with arch-topped miniatures facing 6-line blue initials infilled with scrolling vines and flowers on gold on red grounds, within full illuminated borders, FOURTEEN SMALL MINIATURES (7 lines), ONE HISTORIATED INITIAL (6 lines), forty-one illuminated borders in total decorated with  flowers, fruit, insects, birds, men and women, and grotesques; overall in excellent condition.  Fine contemporary gilt-tooled leather binding, some wear and lacking clasps, edges gilt and gauffered, housed in a sixteenth-century leather covered gilt-tooled casket.  Dimensions: 131 mm x 91 mm.


1. Style of the illuminations closely resembles those painted in Bruges around 1500 by the Master of the Prayerbooks of 1500. Aspects of the text indicate that the manuscript was intended for use in Spain. The calendar includes several saints venerated in southern Netherlands or northern France, notably St. Agnes (Jan 21, Second Feast on Jan 28), St. Amand of Maastricht and St. Vedast of Arras (Feb 6, in red), St. Bavo of Ghent and St. Remigius of Reims (Oct 1, in red), St. Gereon of Cologne (Oct 10), St. Donatian of Reims (Oct 14), St. Boniface of Mainz (June 5), St. Martin (Nov 11), St. Livinus of Ghent (Nov 12), and St. Nicasius of Reims (Dec 14, in red). The calendar also includes the rare feast of St. Sophie of Constantinople (May 15), celebrated in Germany and middle Europe. However, of greatest interest is the emphasis on saint George (April 23) in red, the patron saint of Aragon, Valencia and Catalonia. Furthermore, the rubric at the end of the prayer on the name of Christ, on f. 213, mentions that the prayer was composed by St. Vincent Ferrier, and that he was born in Valencia in Spain and died in Vannes in Brittany in 1422; this mention further indicates the Spanish destination of the book. The contemporary coffret intended for transportation, as well as the inclusion of very unusual saints such as St. Sophia of Constantinople, suggest that the original owner was well travelled. The recipient also had a special devotion to St. Francis, as indicated by the inclusion of his translation and suffrage prayer.

The rare inclusion in the calendar of the translation of St. Nicholas to Bari (May 9) might be a clue to the identity of the original owner. The duchy of Bari was given in 1500 to Isabelle of Aragon, the duchess of Milan. Around this time a Book of Hours was painted in Bruges by the Master of Prayerbooks of 1500 for Isabelle’s Spanish ambassador, Antonio de Cardoña (Cambridge University Library, MS Add. 4100). The style of the illumination in the two manuscripts is very similar, and our manuscript may have been made for another Spanish member of Isabelle’s ducal court in Bari. Or perhaps it was also made for Cardoña, intended for his travels, as the book now in Cambridge is nearly twice the size (230 x 140 mm.), more suited for presentation.

2. In the second half of the sixteenth century the manuscript was given to the famous Spanish theologian and tutor of Philip III, Garcia de Loaisa Giron, as indicated by a dedication written on the verso of the second front flyleaf: “Al Señor Garçia de Loaysa”. Another inscription in different hand below it reads: “En Toledo a 9 de otubre de 1573 vio y ap robo estas Horas/ Garcia de Loaisa Giron” (In Toledo on October 9, 1573, I saw and approved these Hours). This is very likely the date on which he was given the manuscript.

Garcia de Loaisa Giron was a Spanish clergyman (1534-1599), archdeacon of the cathedral of Seville, canon of Toledo (1564), and ecclesiastical governor of the archdiocese of Toledo (1566). The same year, he became the tutor of the son of Philip III. Passionate about literature and himself a writer, he collected manuscripts: no less than 483 manuscripts were inventoried after his death.  Perhaps he acquired this manuscript through his librarian, Pedro Pontín, a Flemish humanist and professor of Greek at the University of Toledo. 

 3. Another inscription on the recto of the first front flyleaf is illegible.


ff. 1-12v, Calendar; f. 13, blank; 

ff. 13v-15, Prayer to the Holy Face, Salve sancta facies; f. 15v, blank; 

ff. 16-22v, Hours of the Cross; f. 23, blank;

ff. 23v-29v, Hours of the Holy Spirit;

ff. 30-40v, Mass of the Virgin Mary;

ff. 41-103v, Hours of the Virgin, use of Rome, beginning Matins (f. 41), Lauds (f. 60v), Prime (f. 72v), Terce (f. 78), Sext (f. 82v), None (f. 87), Vespers (f. 91v), Compline (f. 99v); f. 104v, blank;

ff. 105-113v, Office of the Virgin for Advent;

ff. 114-133, Seven Penitential Psalms and Litany; f. 133v, blank;

ff. 134-178v, Office of the Dead, use of Rome; f. 179, blank;

ff. 179v-183, Obsecro te, masculin forms;

ff. 183-185v, O intemerata;

ff. 186-192, Salve, Virgo virginum, stella matutina; f. 192v, blank;

ff. 193-202v, Psalter of Saint Jerome, “Beatifica domine peccatricem animam meam et concede michi...”;

ff. 203-208, Prayer attributed to Saint Augustine, “Dulcissime Domine Ihesu Christe, verus Deus, qui de sinu Patris...”; 

ff. 208-210v, Prayer of Bede on the seven last words of Christ, “Domine Ihesu Christe qui septem verba...”; 

ff. 210v-213, Prayer on the name of Christ, “O bone Ihesu, o dulcis Ihesu, O Ihesu fili Marie plenus misericordie et veritate...”; f. 213, at the end of the prayer, the mention “Beatus Vincentius frater ordinis predicatorum. Inclitus confessor natus in Valentia in Arragonia has sanctissimas orations in nominee Ihesu fertur dictasse erit. Anno domini M° CCCC° XXII° diem suum clausit extremum in Britanea in civitate Vanetensi et ibidem sepultus est.”

This mention of St. Vincent Ferrier is significant, as it provides a new date for the death of this fifteenth-century saint, hitherto thought to have lived until 1419. 

ff. 213-214v, Psalm 43, “Judica me, Deus...”; 

ff. 214v-223v, Suffrages to St. Michael, St. John the Baptist, Sts. Peter and Paul, St. Andrew, St. Christopher, St. Jerome, St. Nicholas, St. Francis, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Catherine, and St. Barbara;

ff. 224-227v, Athanasian Creed; f. 228r-v, blank.


Subjects of the full-page miniatures:

f. 13v, Christ as Salvator mundi, scatter border with carnations, sweet peas, butterflies, in the lower border of the facing page an angel disperses incense in front of Veronica’s veil;

f. 23v, Pentecost, floral strewn border with a monkey playing a bagpipe, a bird, strawberries and sweet peas;

f. 60v, Visitation, scatter borders with flowers, insects and birds, a man serenades a woman holding a carnation in the lower border of the facing page;

f. 72v-73, Nativity of Christ; scatter borders with a demonic female gazing in a mirror (vanity) and a fool brandishing a club with a human face (human stupidity);

f. 82v-83, Adoration of the Magi (the kings are given individualized portrait features); floral scatter borders; and on the facing page, border of interlaced knots and camaieu birds;

f. 91v-92, Massacre of the Innocents; border strewn with irises, butterflies, and insects, with a hybrid woman with bared breasts and the lower body of a peacock (vanity); on the facing page, a seated fool brandishing a metal-headed flail;

f. 99v-100, Flight into Egypt; scatter borders with strawberries, flowers and insects, a hybrid dragon with a peacock tail, and on the facing page a man with a club bearing a human face;

f. 179v-180, Pietà; men appear to arrange the entwined branches composing the borders;

Subjects of the small miniatures:

f. 203, St. Augustine holding a heart; with floral strewn border;

f. 210v, Infant Christ Child with a bird; birds including a peacock inhabit the floral borders;

f. 214v, St. Michael defeating the Devil; in the lower border a man holds a platter of cakes while his dog sits up and begs;

f. 215v, St. John the Baptist holding a book and the Agnus Dei; framed border with geometric patterns;

f. 216, St. Peter and St. Paul; border scattered with flowers;

f. 217, St. Andrew carrying the Cross; borders scattered with flowers and butterfly;

f. 217v, St. Christopher carrying the Christ Child; floral strewn border;

f. 218v, St. Jerome and his lion; in lower border a man plays bagpipes whilst sitting on a cushion;

f. 219, St. Nicholas saving the three children; border strewn with flowers and strawberries;

f. 219v, St. Francis of Assisi and the stigmata; 

f. 220v, St. Anthony of Padua holding a book on which sits the Christ Child; fool with a human-faced club in lower border; 

f. 221v, St. Mary Magdalene holding the jar of unguents; framed border with geometric pattern; 

f. 222, St. Catherine and the wheel;

f. 223, St. Barbara and the tower; a fool with a human-faced club in lower border; 

One historiated initial (6 lines): 

f. 224, St. Athanasius, border with flowers, strawberries, and cockerel in lower border.

The Spanish court was renowned for commissioning many illuminated manuscripts, and the region of Ghent and Bruges was the largest supplier. In a letter dated June 4, 1582, King Philip II wrote to his daughters that he had in his possession “books of paintings.” Among them were three books by Hollanda, the illuminated Genealogy of the Royal Houses of Spain (British Library, London), which was the result of the collaboration of two illuminators, Antonio de Hollanda in Portugal and Simon Bening (1483-1561) in Bruges around 1530-1534. Simon Bening (c. 1483-1561) is hailed as the “last great Flemish illuminator.”  Richly illuminated Books of Hours of the Ghent-Bruges school remained very popular with wealthy clients throughout Europe such as Albert of Brandenburg, Emperor Charles V or even Philip II of Spain, or the son of King Manuel I of Portugal.

Thanks to Joris Corin Heyder, we have attributed the miniatures in this lovely Book of Hours to the Master of the Prayerbooks of 1500, an artist who was initially named by F. Winckler after a group of devotional manuscripts painted in the Ghent-Bruges manner at the turn of the century. These include two manuscripts in the Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek in Vienna (Cod. 1862 for Margaret of Austria and Cod. 1887) and a manuscript in Berlin’s Kupferstichkabinett (MS 78 B 15).  His courtly and graceful style is characterized by a refined palette, elegant oval faces, soft landscape, and a subdued atmosphere.  Here it is perhaps best seen in the elegant miniature of the Pietà (f. 177v).  He was one of the few illuminators of his generation to demonstrate a skill at secular illustration, as evident in the Roman de la Rose attributed to him (British Library, Harley MS 4425).  The borders in the Roman de la Rose, painted in Bruges around 1490-1500 for Engelbert II, count of Nassau and Vianden (1450-1505), are very similar in style to the borders in our manuscript, suggesting that they are the work of the same illuminator (fig. 1).  The style of both borders and miniatures, including the figures and faces, in our manuscript is very close to that in the Hours that the Master of the Prayerbooks of 1500 painted for Antonio de Cardoña, the ambassador of Isabelle of Aragon (Cambridge University Library, Add. MS 4100; fig. 2).  The name of the Master of the Prayerbooks of 1500 covers a group of artists, or a workshop, explaining the variable quality of the miniatures in our manuscript and in others on which these artists have worked.  The Master of the Prayerbooks of 1500 collaborated with the Maximilian Master but also with Gerard David, Gerard Horenbout, and other leading artists of his day, found together in the famous Rothschild Prayerbook (Private Collection).


J.-C. Rodriguez Pérez, "Los caballeros andantes y el preceptor real. Libros decaballería in the biblioteca de García de Loaysa Girón (1534-1599),” Cuad.Hist. Mod. 43 (1), 2018, pp. 133-156.

Kren, Thomas and Scot McKendrick, eds. Illuminating the Renaissance, The Triumph of Flemish Manuscript Painting in Europe, Los Angeles, 2003, pp. 394-407.

Smeyers, M. and J. Van der Stock, eds. Flemish Illuminated Manuscripts, 1475-1550 (exhibition catalogue), Saint Petersburg, State Hermitage Museum; Florence, Museo Bardini, Ghent and New York, 1996.

Winckler, Friedrich. Die flämische Buchmalerei des XV. und XVI. Jahrhunderts. Künstler und Werke von den Brüdern van Eyck bis zu Simon Bening, Munich, 1925.

BOH 205

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