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Superb Flemish Illuminated Manuscripts on View at the Morgan Library
"Adoration of the Magi", 'Book of Hours', in Latin and French, Northern France; Belgium, ca. 1480. Illuminated by Simon Marmion. The Morgan Library & Museum; MS M.6, fol. 44v.
NEW YORK, NY.- The fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries saw the last great flowering of Flemish illumination. As a complement to The Morgan Library & Museum’s exhibition of The Hours of Catherine of Cleves, which goes on view January 22, 2010, a separate show of eighteen illuminated Books of Hours from the area of and around Flanders (part of modern Belgium) will be presented. Flemish Illumination in the Era of Catherine of Cleves opens simultaneously with the Cleves exhibition and runs through May 2 in the Morgan’s Clare Eddy Thaw Gallery.

The Flemish manuscripts provide intriguing iconographic and stylistic points of comparison with miniatures from Catherine’s great manuscript. All the works in the show are from the Morgan’s holdings, and each at its heart contains the Hours of the Virgin, a sequence of prayers to the mother of God that were ideally recited throughout the course of the day.

The exhibition includes examples from major illuminators from this prolific creative period encompassing the late Middle Ages and the northern Renaissance. On view are works by Lieven van Lathem and Willem Vrelant, two artists who collaborated with, and were influenced by the creator of the Cleves manuscript, known as “the Master of Catherine of Cleves.”

Simon Bening (1483/84–1561), considered one of the greatest Flemish illuminators, is represented by three manuscripts at the center of the exhibition. The Da Costa Hours, known after its second owner, Don Alvaro da Costa, is a masterpiece infused with lush landscapes, beautiful borders, and keen observation of detail. The manuscript will be open to the startling image of All Martyrs, illustrating the numerous ways over the centuries by which Christians have been put to death for their faith.

The second manuscript by Bening depicts the Flight of Egypt. It exemplifies Bening’s interest in documenting landscape and weather conditions and includes extraordinarily observed details. For example, in the background to the right of the Virgin’s head, a tiny gold statue has toppled from a column on a hill, signifying the collapse of the old pagan world. The third manuscript by Bening is the Van Damme Book of Hours depicting a dramatic night scene: The Annunciation to the Shepherds.

Other highlights in the exhibition include a Book of Hours painted by the Master of Jean Chevrot illustrating St. George Slaying the Dragon. The image is reminiscent of panel paintings by Jan van Eyck in its attention to detail in the armor, the birds in the sky, and the dragon’s genitals.

The exhibition is organized by Roger S. Wieck, curator of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts at The Morgan Library & Museum.

The Morgan Library & Museum | The Hours of Catherine of Cleves | Flemish Manuscripts | Roger S. Wieck |


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