NEW YORK.- The Morgan Library & Museum will put on special exhibition beginning May 20 an extremely rare Renaissance illuminated manuscript, the Prayer Book of Queen Claude de France (14991524), created around the time of her coronation in 1517. It is the most important single illuminated manuscript acquired by the Morgan in the last twenty-five years and will go on view in the East Room of the historic McKim building.
The tiny, jewel-like book, measuring just 2 ¾ by 2 inches, is richly illustrated with 132 scenes from the lives of Christ, the Virgin Mary, the apostles, and numerous saints. The work was created by an artist known as the Master of Claude de France and can be characterized as the pinnacle of delicacy in Renaissance illumination. The artist, named after this prayer book and a companion manuscript, was active in Tours during the first quarter of the sixteenth century. Barely a dozen of his works survive.
The prayer book was given to the Morgan by Mrs. Alexandre P. Rosenberg, a long time generous supporter of the Museum. The gift is in memory of her husband Alexandre Paul Rosenberg, who died in 1987. Mr. Rosenberg was founding president in 1962 of the Art Dealers Association of America and was for many years a prominent art dealer in New York.
The manuscript includes a bookplate designed by Pablo Picasso, an artist whose works Mr. Rosenberg exhibited in his gallery. Mr. Rosenberg collected early printed books and illuminated manuscripts; the Prayer Book of Queen Claude is considered the crown jewel of the collection.
The Morgan Library & Museum is deeply grateful to Mrs. Rosenberg for the generous gift of this Renaissance masterpiece, said Morgan director William M. Griswold. It is a tremendously important addition to the Morgan's renowned collection of illuminated manuscripts. We are especially pleased to be able to put the work on view so soon after acquiring it, allowing visitors to see first-hand its beauty and delicacy.
The books miniature scenes are painted in a range of soft purples, mauves, and roses in tiny, sometimes almost invisible brushstrokes. Especially delicate is the artists handling of atmospheric perspective, which he used to both lighten and multiply the soft colors in the landscapes and cities that fill many backgrounds in the book.
The exhibition of the prayer book will include a second, related manuscript, the Prayer Book of Anne de Bretagne. Anne was Claudes mother and queen of France as the wife first of King Charles VIII and then King Louis XII. This manuscript, which was commissioned around 1495 by Anne for her son, was illuminated by Jean Poyer, a leading Tours illuminator in whose workshop the Claude Master is now thought to have trained. Side by side, the two juxtapose a mothers book with her daughters and the work of one illuminator with that of his protégé.
The exhibition will also include a panel with enlargements of many of the illuminations, allowing visitors to see more closely the detail and delicacy of the Claude Masters creations. In addition, visitors can view the complete manuscript on screens in the Morgans computer alcove on the main floor of the museum.
In 1514, at age fourteen, Princess Claude married François dAngoulême, who became King François I of France the next year. Claude and François produced seven children in their ten years of marriage, including their second son, King Henry II of France. Queen Claude died in 1524 at age twenty-four.