CHD "Schwarzes Gebetbuch" or "Hours of Galeazzo Maria Sforza"
Horæ ad usum Romanum, Bruges c.1466-1475
Wien Ö.N. Codex 1856 [Facsimile edition 1930, supplied online by D&D Galleries in Somerville]

|Bibliography| |Kalendar-transcript| |Alphabetical Index to the Calendar|

Short introduction: The "Black Book of Hours" is so called, because the parchment was dyed to a deep black colour before it was written and decorated. The black surface was a hitherto unknown challenge to both the scribe and the illuminator. The elegant way this challenge was encountered has left us with a unique work of art. The script is in gold and silver (which miraculously has survived natural oxidation), and the pictures are painted in a sort of camaieu technique, with the use of few colours on the garments. Seen on the black background are the colours shining with an almost supernatural gleam of light. The sketchy drawing of the landscape or the architectural background settings has enhanced the effect of the few subdued glowing colours. Comparison with other works by the master shows that the black surface in fact turned his weaker sides as a draughtman into virtues; his failing ability to draw a naturalistic linear perspective, and his otherwise uncritical use of strong motley colours, has contributed to the unique beauty of this particular work. Who was this artist? Friedrich Winkler named him after his principal employer "The Master of Anthony of Burgundy". Antoine de Schryver identified him as Philippe de Mazerolles (died in Bruges 1479), known from several documents as court painter to Charles the Bold and active for him from 1466. Both in geographical and chronological context a tempting theory, but it remains disputed. Of particular art historical interest is his strong stylistical influence on the later work of the anonymous illuminator called the "Master of the Dresden Book of Hours". His preference for persons seen from behind, or with bowed heads (where the face is hidden by the hat) is one of his strong characteristics, as well as his amiable stereotyped female faces, with their bashfully chaste half-closed eyelids.
Apart from the calendar (a composite Bruges work) are the contents all standard texts (Use of Rome) without any significant variants or individual redactions which could give a hint to the idendity of the person who commissioned the work. Beyond doubt was the first owner a member of the family of the Duke of Burgundy, and it is generally agreed that Charles the Bold was the probable owner when he later decided to present it to the Duke of Milan (before 1476). The clumsy replacement and redecoration of the present folio 1 with the armorial excludes that Galeazzo Maria Sforza was the original destinataire.
Unfortunately was the chemical composition of the black dyer not resistant, and has led to a deterioration of the vellum to a degree where it no longer is possible to turn the fragile leaves without damage to the manuscript. All leaves have therefore been separated, and are now mounted between glass panes. The binding seems to be the original flemish binding, velvet on wooden boards, with gilted and enamelled silver clasps. It is now preserved in Vienna under the shelfmark E554 (Pächt and Thoss p.18, Abb.12-14).
f.1Heraldic Frontispiece. Devise and Arms of Galeazzo Maria Sforza, Duke of Milan.
This single leaf was originally one of the ruled but empty leaves, left unwritten at the end of the book. Its later decoration with the arms of Galeazzo Maria, and replacement as "titlepage" took place long after the manuscript had left the workshop in Bruges, at the latest in 1476 (the year when the duke died). The original manuscript, in itself, contains no evidence of the commissioner, nor of a possible predestined ownership. All academic discussion on the origin, time and location of this alteration to the original manuscript, is irrelevant for the art historical importance of this outstanding refined work of the Bruges book production in the period 1465-1475.


Full Transcript of the Calendar Alphabetical Calendar Index
f.2JanuariusMan warming his limbs in front of a fireplaceZodiac: Aquarius
f.3FebruariusCutting the treesZodiac: Pisces
f.4MartiusTilling the earthZodiac: Aries
f.5AprilisA springtime promenadeZodiac: Taurus
f.6MaiusDeparture of the FalconryZodiac: Gemini
f.7JuniusHay-makingZodiac: Cancer
f.8JuliusGrain HarvestZodiac: Leo
f.9AugustusTreshingZodiac: Virgo
f.10SeptemberWinepressingZodiac: Libra
f.11OctoberSowing the WheatZodiac: Scorpio
f.12NovemberFeeding the Pigs with AcornsZodiac: Sagittarius
f.13DecemberSlaughtering of a PigZodiac: Capricorn
f.14v*The Nailing to the Cross Full-page miniature.
Vivid narrative scene with numerous realistic details showing four men working on the fixation of Christ, and a man in the foreground digging a hole in the earth for the cross. In the background are the two robbers arriving on the hill, followed by Pilatus on horseback with his escort.
Medaillons: L: The wife of the blacksmith Hedroit and two assistants, forging the iron nails for the cross (apochryph legend). B: Two soldiers, having played dice on the robe of Christ, are now fighting for their pray.
f.15Incipiunt hore sancte crucis. Ad matutinasDomine labia mea aperies...etc. (¶D6 Mermaid playing a lauth)
Medaillions: R: Two hermits in the desert blessed by the holy ghost. B: Charity: Lady giving alms to a bettler.
f.16Ad primam
Deus in adiutorium...etc. (¶D6 Floral decorations)
Medaillions: R: Lady kneeling in confession before a priest seated in a wooden chair. B: Man and two children swimming in a river.
f.17Ad tertiamDeus in adiutorium...etc. (¶D6 Floral decorations)
Medaillions: R: Two elderly men seated in front of each other and gesticulating in a dispute. B: Young lady in the company of a man hunting birds with his bow.
f.18Ad sextamDeus in adiutorium...etc. (¶D6 Floral decorations)
Medaillions: R: Old hermit going for water with a jug. B: Young lady threatened in nature by dancing death.
f.19Ad nonamDeus in adiutorium...etc. (¶D6 Floral decoration)
Medaillions: R: Two elderly men in oriental dress seated in front of each other and gesticulating in a dispute. B: Child playing horse and ride with a man.
f.20Ad vesperasDeus in adiutorium...etc. (¶D6 Floral decoration)
Medaillions: R: Hermit seated by a river. B: Woolf dressed as a monk preaching to domestic birds.
f.21Ad completoriumConverte nos...etc. (¶C5 Achantus decoration)
Medaillions: R: Two hermits seated in nature. B: Apes playing a barbers shop.
f.22v*Pentecost Full-page miniature
The twelve apostles gathered in a half-circle around Mary in a church-like building. Peter in front, dressed in blue, points with his left (misdrawn) hand at the dove appearing above their heads.
Medaillions: L: Saint Paul preaching B: Another Apostel preaching. (Due to the damage of the parchment has a part of the lower border been detached, and the missing medaillon is now in the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin [Inv. no. 3895]).
f.23Incipiunt hore de sancto spiritu. Ad matutinumDomine labia mea aperies...etc. (¶D6 Floral decoration)
Medaillions: R: Old man reading a book. B: Jester riding backwards on a mule, fiddling on a piece of wood.
f.27v*Mass celebrated in a Church Full-page miniature
Celebrant kissing the alter where the chalice is standing. Illustration to the initial words of the mass on folio 28. Both the celebrant and most of the attendants are seen from behind. The alterpiece is a statue of the Virgin carved in wood.
Medaillons: L: Soldier killing an animal (Dragon). B: Man playing organ.
f.28Medaillons: R: Hermit in prayer outside a building. B: Woman taking water from a fountain.
f.32v*The Four Evangelists Full-page miniature
All four evangelists are brought together in one room, each occupied with his writings. In front Marc and Matthew, at the back Luc and John. The room is narrowed by the inadequate perspective skills of the artist.
Medaillions: L: Grotesque: wild man riding on a hybrid animal B: Another grotesque, where a soldier is fighting a dragon.
f.33Inicium sancti evangelii. Secundum iohannem.In principio erat verbum - etc. (¶I6 with floral decoration).
Medaillions: R: John the evangelist on the island Pathmos. B: Man with an ape on a wheelbarrow.
f.37v*Arrest of Christ in Gethsemane Full-page miniature
Crowded scene with traditional iconography, where Christ is replacing the ear that Peter just in anger has cut off the soldier Malchus. The infancy-cycle normally illustrating the hours of the Virgin in France and Flanders has been reduced to historiated initials in favour of the passion-sequence who, from earlier medieval psalter-hours, usually played a secondary role as parallel illustrations to the scenes from the childhood of Christ. In the 15th cent. is this choise normally only found in Dutch books of hours. It is in reality also a pre-reformation tendency, a reaction against the increasing focus on the veneration of Mary as intermediary between man and God, and a return to the original 12th cent. conclusion of the hours with the collect "Gratiam tuam quesumus" who reminded the reader about the essential christian message of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ for our eternal salvation. (A more detailed discussion of this interpretation will be published in the forthcoming CHD Miscellanea).
f.38Ad matutinumDomine labia mea aperies...etc. (¶D6 Annunciation to Mary Historiated initial)

Medaillions: R: Gideon [Judices VI,36-40]. B: The temptation of Eve in Paradise, with God the Father as spectator above the three. (Both subjects are traditional parallel scenes to the Annunciation in Biblia pauperum and Speculum humanae salvationis).
f.51v*Christ before Pilate Full-page miniature
Pilate seated under a baldachin in a courtyard, attented by two roman soldiers who are discussing the situation. He is addressing Jesus standing before him to the right on the tiled floor with tightly bound hands, looking, with an expression of distracted discomfort, at the dog gnawing a bone in front of him. Pilate, resting the chin in his left hand, is puzzled by the strange apparently self-destructive jew before him who seems to be immune to his roman common sense.
Medaillions: L: Christ before Herod, B: Christ conducted by wards into custody.
f.52Ad laudesDeus in adiutorium...etc. (¶D6 Visitation)
Medaillions: R: Disputation scene with two elderly men in oriental dress B: Another version of the disputation scene with two seated men. What is the subject of their intense discussions?
f.60v*Flagellation of Christ Full-page miniature
Christ is bound to a column and already covered with bloodstains, inflicted by the flagellation by four men with birch-bundles. He is suffering his fatal destiny with a dignified expression. In the background is Pilatus sitting as spectator, discussing the incident with a person standing behind him.
Medaillions: L: Peters denial B: Ecce homo
f.61Ad primam.Deus in adiutorium...etc. (¶D6 The Nativity Historiated initial)
Hymnus. Memento salutis auctor - Maria mater gratie - Gloria tibi.
Antiphona. Assumpta est. Psalmus.//
Full painted border with two medaillions: R: Aarons Rod [Numeri xvii, 16-26] B: Moses and the burning Bush [Exodus iii, 1-5]
[The minor pictures in the borders are mainly following the medieval typological system, with parallel scenes from the Old Testament, as found in the Biblia Pauperum and the Speculum humanae salvationis. The Biblical references to the Old Testament (Vulgatae Clementinae) are here quoted from Otto Pächt and Dagmar Thoss, 1990, where all details normally are impeccably correct.]
f.64v*The Crowning with Thorns Full-page miniature
Two men are fixing the crown of thorns with excessive force on the head of Christ. A third man is kneeling in front of Christ and handing him a reed in a mocking theatrical gesture. A sheep in the foreground is not part of the traditional iconography. On the wall in the background are Adam and Eve represented in life-size sculptures.
Medaillions: L: John and the two Mary's on their way to the crucifixion B: Carpenter working on the wood to the cross.
f.65Ad tertiamDeus in adiutorium...etc. (¶D6 Annunciation to the Shepherds Historiated initial)
Hymnus. Memento salutis auctor - Maria mater gratie - Gloria tibi. Antiphona. Maria virgo.//
Medaillions: R: Two men in a conversation B: Another unidentifiable scene with two oriental persons in dispute.
f.68v*Carrying of the Cross Full-page miniature

Medaillions: L: Jesus before Pilate, who is washing his hands. B: Unusual depiction of the derobement of Jesus. He is seen half naked from behind, with the blue dress over his neck, forcefully torn off by two soldiers (where and when does the loin-cloth come in?).
f.69Ad sextamDeus in adiutorium...etc. (¶D6 Adoration of the Magi Historiated initial)
Medaillions: R: The Queen of Sheba kneeling before King Solomon [III Reg., X,1-13] B: King David in Hebron receives a message from Abner [II Reg., III,20-21]
f.72v*Crucifixion Full-page miniature
f.73Ad nonamDeus in adiutorium...etc. (¶D6 M)
Medaillions: R: B:
f.76v*Descent from the Cross Full-page miniature
f.77Ad vesperasDeus in adiutorium...etc. (¶D6 M))
Medaillions: R: B:
f.82v*The buriel of Christ Full-page miniature
f.83Ad completoriumConverte nos ...etc. (¶C6 M))
Medaillions: R: B:
f.91v*Coronation of the Virgin
f.92Hore in adventu
Medaillions: R: B:
f.102v*David in Prayer Full-page miniature
f.103Domine ne in furore
Medaillions: R: B:
f.119v*Death Full-page miniature
Medaillon: Raising of Lazarus

Bibliography: (Selective titles from the complete bibliography in Otto Pächt & Dagmar Thoss, 1990).
Exhibitions: Codex 1856 has been included in almost every major exhibition on Flemish miniature painting or treasures from Vienna for the last century.
Friedrich Winkler: Die Flämische Buchmalerei des XV. und XVI. Jahrhunderts. Künstler und Werke von den Brüdern van Eyck bis zu Simon Bening. Leipzig 1925. (Meister Antons von Burgund, p.82).
O. Smital: Das Schwarze Gebetbuch des Herzogs Galeazzo Maria Sforza, Wien 1930 [Commentary to the partial facsimile-edition reproduced here].
E. Trenkler: Das Schwarze Gebetbuch, Wien 1948.
A. de Schryver: L'OEuvre authentique de Philippe de Mazerolles, enlumineur de Charles le Temeraire, in: Cinq-centième anniversaire de da bataille de Nancy, Nancy 1979, p.135-144.
Ulrike Jenni und Dagmar Thoss: Das Schwarze Gebetbuch. Codex 1856. Kommentar zur Faksimile-Ausgabe, Frankfurt am Main 1982.
E. Irblich: Ergänzungen zur Geschichte des Schwarzes Gebtbuches, in: Miscellanea Neerlandica, opstellen voor Dr. Jan Deschamps, I, Leuven 1987, p.234-243.
Otto Pächt & Dagmar Thoss: Die Illuminierten Handschriften der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek. Flämische Schule II, Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien 1990, Textband p.17-35, Tafeln Abb.12-41, Fig.3-18, (mit Bibliographie).

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