(Lucerne: Faksimile Verlag, 1993). 206 x 168 mm. (8 1/8 x 6 5/8"). Four volumes (each with separate volume of commentary in English and German). With commentary by Mark L. Evans. No. 195 OF 980 COPIES.
Publisher's red velvet, flat spine, two silver gilt clasps, each volume housed in a matching velvet box with the commentary volume (in paper wrapper), gilt coat of arms on upper cover of each box. With 138 borders and 48 miniatures by Birago, and two borders and 16 miniatures by Horenbout. In mint condition.
This is a very fine facsimile of a Renaissance Book of Hours with an intriguing history and decoration by two different and distinguished illuminators, one Italian and the other Flemish. The Sforza Hours was originally commissioned from Italian miniaturist Giovan Pietro Birago (fl. 1471-1513) by Bona Sforza, wife of the Duke of Milan, around 1490. A surviving letter from Birago to an unknown nobleman complains that part of the manuscript was stolen by an unscrupulous "Fra Jacopo," and demands restitution in the enormous amount of 500 ducats. No one knows if Birago was ever reimbursed for his loss, but the duchess bequeathed the partial manuscript to her nephew's wife, Margaret of Austria. In 1506, Margaret, daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor, moved to the Netherlands, where she served as Regent for the future Charles V until his coronation in 1520. In 1517, she set about completing the Sforza Hours, hiring scribe Etienne de Lale to provide the missing text pages and illuminator Gerard Horenbout (ca. 1465-1541) to paint miniatures and two borders. Horenbout had produced the miniatures in the Breviary of Eleanor of Portugal and those in the Hours of James IV of Scotland. He also briefly worked as painter in the court of Henry VIII. Horenbout included a small portrait of Charles V in one of the borders here, leading art historians to believe that Margaret gave the book to the emperor to commemorate his coronation. The manuscript resurfaced in Madrid in 1871; it was purchased by an Englishman and was donated to the British Library by a later owner. As noted in the library's online exhibit of the work, "The manuscript is outstanding for its rich decorative scheme and an unusually high number of its text pages have minutely detailed borders, initials and vignettes in deep blues, greens and rich reds, to complement the many full-page miniatures." (ST12210)
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PJP Catalog: 76.203