The Briçonnet Hours

The Briçonnet Hours is a wonder of skill and artistry, containing twenty-five glorious miniatures created to look as if they were panel paintings, complete with trompe l’oeil decorative frames. Remarkable for their mastery of colour and inventive style, the miniatures seem to invite the viewer to step inside a personal gallery of masterpieces.

The creator of this treasure was Jean Poyer of Tours, an artist of considerable mastery. A limited edition facsimile of this 15c illuminated manuscript has been made from the precious original manuscript held in the Teylers Museum in Haarlem.

The book shows an artist of extraordinary talent. The full-page miniatures are painstakingly achieved with tiny brushstrokes and a wealth of colour and gold. The compositions display a superlative ability to create figures, drapery and architectural perspective.

Jean Poyer of Tours was active ca.1483-1503 and served the courts of three successive Kings of France, Louis XI, Charles VIII and Louis XII. An exhibition at the Morgan Library, NY in 2001 styled him ‘Artist to the Court of Renaissance France’ and presented his work as notable for its innovation, beauty and quality.

The Patron of the Briçonnet Hours remains a mystery, but is hinted at in the initial on fol.10v, which contains the Briçonnet coat of arms. Guillaume Briçonnet of Tours who became bishop, archbishop and cardinal, and sat on the Council of State for the French court. The book of Hours would have most likely been commissioned as a gift for his wife. The Briçonnet Hours remains a supreme example of the art of the fifteenth century illuminator.  

The Manuscript:Haarlem, Teylers Museum, Ms.78
Date:c.1485
Place:Tours, France
Dimensions:21 by 14.5cm
Extent:288 pages (144 folios)
Artist:Jean Poyer
Patron:Believed to be Guillaume Briçonnet, Secretary of the Treasury under Charles VIII of France
Illumination:25 full-page miniatures in rich colours with gold and silver accenting. Gilded initials with trompe l’oeil precious stones and pearls.
Binding:red leather binding with gold embossing on front and back covers, spine and edges
Commentary volume:Mara Hofmann/Christine Seidel/Pierr-Gilles Girault.
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