The Book of Hours Is Now Hot with Art Collectors

But their appeal to women often went deeper than fashion. The central text in most books of hours was devoted to lavishly illustrated episodes in the life of the Virgin Mary and prayers based around those.

“She was a virgin, but also a mother, and whether you were a housewife or a nun, she was an ideal,” said Mr. Wieck. Another of the books exhibited by Dr. Günther was apparently used and amended by a nun in a convent near Donaueschingen, Germany.

Book owners were instructed to start their days with prayers often accompanying illustrations of the Annunciation, where, according to the Gospel of Luke, the angel Gabriel tells Mary she’s to bear the Son of God.

“In most of these scenes, Mary’s reading some sacred text, which was an encouragement of female literacy,” Mary Erler, a distinguished professor emeritus at Fordham University and a specialist in English Books of Hours. She later said, “There’s even a famous illustration where she’s reading on a donkey on the flight to Egypt, as her husband Joseph carries the baby.”

In part, these books originated, according to Mr. Wieck, in imitation of the Psalters that only (male) priests and members of religious orders were authorized to bear. “They came out of a sort of bibliophilic envy,” he said.

At the back of most books, there were prayers to particular saints, including, often, some female saints. Having survived being devoured by a dragon, St. Margaret of Antioch would be prayed to by expectant mothers worried about the pain and danger of giving birth. “The saints could serve as what we’d now call female role models,” Dr. Erler said.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *