(Southern Netherlands: ca. 1490). Visible leaf: 185 x 120 mm (7 3/8 x 4 3/4"); frame: 335 x 255 mm. (13 1/4 x 10"). Single column, 24 lines in a batarde book hand.

Framed in gold and matted in red, both sides visible (recto in glass, verso in mylar). Rubrics in blue and red, several one- and two-line initials painted gold on blue, brown, or red ground, WITH TWO 10-LINE MINIATURES DEPICTING ST. MARGARET on one side AND ST. BARBARA on the other, each side with a single border of acanthus leaves on bare ground and flowers on gold ground. VIRTUALLY PRISTINE, with clean, wide margins and perfectly preserved miniatures.

This extremely well-preserved leaf features the images of St. Barbara and St. Margaret, two saints whose beautifully painted figures belie their memorably gruesome deaths. The historical existence of these saints is dubious, yet both were extremely popular in the Middle Ages and often appear together in Books of Hours. Barbara is said to have been shut away in a tower by her pagan father, during which time she became a Christian and was consequently condemned to death. Her father, meanwhile, died suddenly from a lightning bolt. For this reason, Barbara is known as the protector of those in danger of sudden death. Margaret of Antioch has one of the more unusual hagiographical stories. Because of her Christian beliefs, she was subjected to numerous tortures including, at one point, being swallowed by a dragon. She tore open the beast from within its stomach and survived (only to be beheaded later on by Diocletian). She is the patroness of childbirth, and, according to the "Oxford Dictionary of Saints," she promises an "unfading crown in heaven" to "those who invoke her on their deathbeds." In a society obsessed with death--sudden or otherwise--it is no wonder the two saints depicted here enjoyed such popularity and reverence in the Medieval imagination.