[MR] History Blog: Repainted Illuminated Book of Hours
Garth Groff and Sally Sanford
mallardlodge1000 at gmail.com
Fri May 21 02:53:58 PDT 2021
Two days ago the History Blog featured the fascinating story of revisions
to a famous illuminated book, "The Hours of Isabella Stuart".
The work was commissioned by Duchess Yolande of Aragon for her daughter,
also named Yolande (of Anjou), around the time of the latter's 1431
marriage to Francis of Brittany. As was common at the time, the
illuminators painted the younger Yolande in the book in a devotional scene
(folio 20, the kneeling figure at left in the chief illustration). Francis
would eventually become Francis I, Duke of Brittany. Sadly, the younger
Yolande died in 1440, two years before Francis acceded to the Ducal throne.
It wasn't long before Francis was shopping for a new bride, and he chose
Isabella Stuart, daughter of King of the Scots James I (the original James,
not his descendant James VI who would become James I of England; yes, I
know it's confusing). So Francis had the book retooled, replacing Yolande's
face with Isabella's and updating various heraldic devices before
presenting the book to his second bride. When Francis became a Duke, the
book was again reworked to show Isabella wearing a coronet. This apparently
was not an uncommon practice, as illuminated books of hours and psalters
were extremely valuable, were often regifted, and sometimes updated to
flatter the subsequent owner.
And yes, Isabella's Hours was regifted again. The book came to Isabella's
daughter Margaret of Brittany in 1455 when Margaret married her cousin
Francis II of Brittany. (Ever wonder why there was so much madness in
European nobility?). This time instead of a repaint, a new page was
inserted showing Margaret in a similar devotional scene, but leaving the
previously doctored page intact.
So all this fun stuff, including information on the paints used by the
various artists which were used to trace these changes, can be read at
The Hours of Isabella Stuart is owned by the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
A selection of folios from the work can be seen at
A brief bio of Isabella is at
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