[Loch-Ruadh] Future Exhibit at the Kimbell

Steve Rourke steverourke at charter.net
Wed Jul 2 23:05:20 PDT 2003

Painted Prayers:
Medieval and Renaissance Books of Hours from the Morgan Library
October 12, 2003-January 18, 2004

This exhibition features 58 of the finest manuscript and printed books of
hours from the collections of the Pierpont Morgan Library-one of the richest
repositories of such works in the world. Books of hours-prayer books used by
ordinary men and women-were produced, by hand and by press, in greater
quantities than any other type of book from the mid-thirteenth to the
mid-sixteenth centuries. They were "bestsellers," more popular than even the
Bible. Among the primary vehicles of artistic expression, books of hours
contain some of the most beautiful paintings and prints of the medieval and
Renaissance periods.

Painted Prayers examines the iconography of books of hours, the artists who
illustrated them, and the central role of the books as religious texts in
the lives of their owners. More books of hours survive from the late Middle
Ages than any other cultural artifact. Medieval life-and death-cannot be
understood without examining this type of devotional work, owned, in various
forms, by so many people and commonly known by heart. The prayers in books
of hours, centered around the Mother of God, are the great literary
expression of the cult of the Virgin Mary. They are also reflections of the
society that produced them: from the frequent appearance of invocations to
Saints Sebastian, Apollonia, and Margaret, for example, we learn something
of the chronic problem of plague, the annoyance of toothache, and the
dangers of childbirth.

Among the beautiful and representative works shown in the exhibition, two
are particularly important. The luxuriant Hours of Catherine of Cleves (c.
1440) is the greatest of all Dutch books of hours. The Hours of Cardinal
Alessandro Farnese, completed in 1546 by Giulio Clovio, so dazzled Giorgio
Vasari that in his Lives of the Artists (1568) he called this most famous
manuscript of the Italian High Renaissance one of the "marvels of Rome."

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