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


Recto:   Full page portrait on vellum of the Madonna and Child together with the Donor and his wife.  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 her left is a richly dressed man - the Donor - presenting his very plainly dressed wife to the Virgin.

The artist has depicted the Donor as the dominant figure in the tableau.  Unlike his wife, he is painted on the same scale as Mary and the detailing of his clothes and facial features is finer than the those of the two women. Mary gazes compassionately at the kneeling wife, blessing her.  Both figures are static, in contrast to the Donor who extends his arm, directing the action of Mary’s blessing.

The Donor’s confident stance, groomed appearance and expensive finery convey the desired image of a man of earthly riches and status as well as one of sincere religious devotion.


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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