[MR] History Blog: Cromwell's Book of Hours Identified
Garth Groff and Sally Sanford
mallardlodge1000 at gmail.com
Mon Jun 12 02:15:38 PDT 2023
Today the History Blog reports on the identification of a book prominently
displayed in a Holbein painting of Thomas Cromwell.
The volume in question is a book of hours, possibly a gift from Anne
Boleyn. Anne apparently commissioned three copies of this book, one given
to Cromwell, a second to Queen Catherine of Aragon, and one for herself
(the most lavish). The three were printed by a press on vellum in Paris,
with illuminations added by hand. All three books survive, and except for
who commissioned them, their provenance is well documented.
The Cromwell portrait is striking, and a bit chilling if you consider how
many people the sitter had a hand in killing, many on trumped-up charges.
Cromwell is surrounded by several interesting items, including scissors, a
quill pen, and several documents and seals. One is given to speculate on
what is written on the documents, and if some might be death warrants (even
possibly Anne's). There is also an odd item at the lower right corner with
some sort of cords (I was tempted to think of a face mask, but that is a
modern projection!). I blew the painting up to gargantuan size and played
with the contrast, but still was unable to clearly see what the item really
You can enjoy the painting, and details of the book itself, at
Livius, the History Blog author, has also provided us links to a digitized
version of the Cromwell *Hours*, and to a show at Hever Castle in which
Catherine's and Anne's *Hours* were displayed side-by-side. Catherine's
book has since been returned to the Morgan Library, and the Cromwell
version has taken its place on display. The page also shows one of the
rooms at Hever with a lavish gown and some regalia on display.
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