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(Flemish, c. 1444–1519)
Ink, tempera, and gold on vellum
Codex: 22.5 x 15.2 cm (8 7/8 x 6 in.)
Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund 1963.256.51.a
This manuscript was illuminated by a circle of at least five highly organized manuscript painters active in the Flemish cities of Ghent and Bruges. The principal illuminator was Alexander Bening, who painted the majority of the book's miniatures. Manuscripts produced by this circle of artists are renowned for the decoration of their borders, which typically feature a rich variety of realistically-painted flowers, birds, and butterflies.
This prayer book, called a book of hours, was intended not for a cleric, but for the private devotions of a lay person-in this case, Isabella the Catholic, Queen of Spain (1451-1504). Isabella's coat of arms embellishes the book's frontispiece. It is unlikely that the book was commissioned by the Queen herself; rather, she probably received it as a diplomatic gift from someone courting her patronage, perhaps Cardinal Francisco Jimenez de Cisneros. A Franciscan friar, Jimenez was dependent upon Isabella for his advancement, first to the post of Queen's confessor in 1492, and then to Archbishop of Toledo in 1495.
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