Illustrating one of the great art treasures of the world, The Hours of Catherine of Cleves is a fifteenth-century illuminated manuscript containing a series of some of the most beautiful illustrations of the Bible ever made. Many of the great scenes from the Old Testament and many more from the New Testament are included, besides the Stations of the Cross and portraits of the saints.
The work of an unidentified Dutch master painter, the manuscript was made for Catherine of Cleves on the occasion of her marriage to the Duke of Guelders. All the 157 surviving miniatures are reproduced to actual size and in exquisite color with gold, together with three samples of pages containing the Latin prayers. Page after page reveals the elaborate program and rich illumination of the original. The progression from beginning to end shows an artist increasing in skill, relying in his earlier work on tradition and later emerging as an independent artist of bold, clear colors, dynamic brushwork, and lively imagination. He stands as one of the supreme painters of fifteenth-century Northern Europe.
Each page is accompanied by a descriptive and explanatory commentary by John Plummer. His introduction discusses the development of the Book of Hours as a liturgical form in general, and the history of the Cleves Hours specifically, and describes the place it holds in the history of Northern painting.
John Plummer is a former curator and Research Fellow Emeritus at the Pierpont Morgan Library. He has taught at Columbia, Harvard, and Princeton universities and was appointed Professor Emeritus of Medieval Art History at Princeton University in 1985. His publications include Old Testament Miniatures (with Sydney C. Cockerell) and The Last Flowering: French Painting in Manuscripts, 1420-1530, from American Collections.