Book of Hours Miniature c.1490. Donor portrait with Mary & Jesus

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Recto:    Full page portrait on vellum of the Madonna and Child and an unknown saint together with the Donor who is a Cistercian nun. Mary is enthroned with the Child seated on her lap on a green tasselled cushion and holding a modestly placed cross.  Above her, two angels with multi-coloured wings draw aside the curtains of a green tapestry canopy. Standing to Mary’s left is a saint - note the faint nimbus - one that the donor would have been particularly devoted to, and kneeling before her is the Cistercian nun, seeking blessings from Mary and the saint. 

Mary gazes compassionately at the nun, blessing her, while the saint also raises his hand in blessing. 

The artist has depicted the kneeling Donor with her simple habit and pious expression as a devout servant of Mary and the Church, the image that she wished to convey through the ages.



Verso:   Blank.


Source:  Probably France.


Date:   c.1490


Condition:  This richly coloured and detailed miniature is in fine condition. While sections of the margins are lost and discoloured, within the window of the mat the image is virtually blemish free. The  leaf is unconditionally guaranteed genuine.


Size:  Size of leaf: approx. 175x135 mm. Image: approx.155x105 mm.  Free shipping worldwide.


Notes:  A Donor is a person who donates a book - and often commissions it as well - to an ecclesiastical establishment.  Portraits of donors are found throughout the Middle Ages, but became increasingly popular from the 13C on.

Such portraits collapsed time and space, enabling people to imagine themselves occupying the same space as their favourite saints, where they could ask directly for guidance or blessing.  

In contrast to modern portraiture, which strives to capture the accurate likeness of a specific person, medieval portraiture was primarily valued for its ability to express an individual's social status, religious convictions, or political position. Medieval portrait painters, rather than reproducing the precise facial features of their subjects, often identified individuals by depicting their clothing, heraldry, or other objects related to them. The goal of medieval portraiture was to present a subject not at a particular moment in time, but as the person wished to be remembered through the ages.

Item No:  MBH106

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