Posted in Books

The Master of Mary of Burgundy

I have been fascinated with Books of Hours for a long time. I finally found this beautiful replica on Amazon and wanted to share with you what it looks like on the inside and a little bit of information about it. I am by no means on expert of these types of books, nor manuscripts for that matter and welcome any input from others who know more about it than me.

The Book of Hours

A Book of Hours is a devotional book that was popular with Christians in the Middle Ages. A typical Book of Hours contained the following:

  • A Calendar of Church Feasts
  • Excerpts from the four Biblical New Testament Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
  • The Hours of the Virgin (a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary)
  • The fifteen Psalms of Degrees (Psalms 120-134)
  • The seven Penitential Psalms (Psalms 6, 31, 37, 50, 101, 129, 142)
  • The Litany of Saints (a formal prayer of the Catholic Church)
  • The Office of the Dead (a prayer cycle for the Canonical Hours, said for the repose of the soul of a descendent.)
  • The Hours of the Cross (not sure about this one, but I believe it is prayers and hymns said at matins)
Page showing the calendar of Church Feasts from The Master of Mary of Burgundy.

Who was Mary of Burgundy?

The Book of Hours that I have is titled, The Master of Mary of Burgundy. However this book did not belong to Mary of Burgundy. It is named after an illuminator that created works for her.

Mary of Burgundy was the only child of the Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold and his second wife, Isabella of Bourbon. When the duke died at the Battle of Nancy in 1477, Mary inherited all her father’s Burgundian lands, making her the richest woman in Europe. She married Maximilian of Hapsburg who eventually became the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I after Mary’s death.

Mary was the mother of Philip the Fair, who was the husband of Joanna of Castile, daughter of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile. She also had a daughter, Margaret, Duchess of Savoy.

Mary was killed in a riding accident during a falcon hunt when she was 25 years old.

Mary of Burgundy by Michael Pacher, 1435-1498
Public Domain

Who was the Master of Mary of Burgundy?

The Master of Mary of Burgundy was a Flemish illuminator and painter that was very successful in the late 15th century. His real name is not known. Rather, he is known by what is called a Notname, a name given to an artist whose identity has been lost. The name of the Master of Mary of Burgundy comes from two of his most popular works: two Books of Hours created for Mary of Burgundy.

Who owned the Master of Mary of Burgundy Book of Hours?

This book of hours was created for a man named Engelbert of Nassau. Engelbert was Count of Nassau and Vianden and Lord of Breda, Lek, Diest, Roosendaal, Nispen, and Wouw. He was a knight and a leader of the Privy council of the Duchy of Burgundy.

It is believed that Engelbert passed the Book of Hours on to Philip the Fair, son of Mary of Burgundy, as a gift. Philip’s coat of arms was added to the book after he took possession.

Engelbert of Nassau~Masters of Portraits of Princes, 1490.
Public Domain.
Philip the Fair (or, the Handsome)~Juan de Flandes, 1500.
Public Domain.

The Master of Mary of Burgundy Book of Hours has gold-gilded pages and is printed on heavy, glossy paper. The printed version of each picture looks as if it were painted in real gold, giving you a little idea of what the original would have looked like. It is very colorful, as you can see from the above pictures.

Get your copy of The Master of Mary of Burgundy Book of Hours here.

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