Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A Treasury of Hours: Selections from Illuminated Prayer Books by Fanny Fay-Sallois

Before the invention of the printing press, wealthy men and women of Europe commissioned hand-lettered and hand-illustrated volumes from some of the finest artists of the time. Among the most precious were books of hours, which contained psalms and readings arranged for specific times of day. Many of these books contained ravishing illustrations—called "illuminations"—picturing such biblical scenes as the Nativity, the Mount of Olives, the Dance of Salome, and the Pentecost. The margins of these pages were often embellished with enchanting decorative motifs of flowers, foliage, birds, and animals.
I've long been fascinated by the idea of using a Book of Hours for devotion. This lovely book from The J. Paul Getty Museum delivers the closest experience I'm likely ever to have.

Selections from a variety of illuminated prayer books take the reader through a good representation of what patrons would have found in the books they commissioned for their own daily prayer. They include variety of different books of hours and topics ranging from calendar pages, gospel passages, hours of the Passion, hours of the Virgin, and the saints. Each spread has a prayer and annotation so you can get more out of the illustration and prayer.

This is a book I will visit again and again. Not only is the artwork delightful but the artists' interpretations gave me new food for thought and reflection. Just as a Book of Hours is supposed to do!

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