Although it is neither signed nor dated, this book is one of thirty manuscripts and incunabula securely attributed to Nikolaus Glockendon. His attributed output ranges in date from 1512 to 1533-1534. Our manuscript belongs to his early period, along with a second prayer book currently in Vienna and probably made for the same couple. Contrary to the present, pristine manuscript, the Vienna book shows traces of intensive use. It is most extraordinary that two books commissioned for one couple and executed in the same period are both preserved. Remarkably, both manuscripts were also written by the same excellent scribe.
The border decoration (often with playful scenes), historiated initials, and full-page miniatures all form a combination of stunning vivacity and artistic quality. The full-page illustrations are without border decoration. All miniatures are flanked on their juxtaposed page by a large, painted initial on a golden ground surrounded by border decoration.
Nikolaus Glockendon illuminated many manuscripts written in German, several of which were copied by the same hand, which exhibits a fine calligraphic Fraktur. The eponymous manuscript known as the ‘Glockendon Prayerbook’ is a masterpiece of German book illumination commissioned by cardinal Albert of Brandenburg, prince elector of Mainz.
The artist was born in the house of well-known illuminators and printers in Nuremberg. He was the son of Georg Glockendon the Elder (d. 1514) and the brother of Albrecht, who also worked in the book trade. Since 1515, Nikolaus worked independently. He is said to have trained twelve sons in the craft, but only his sons Gabriel, Nikolaus the Younger, and Sebastian came to fame. Nikolaus the Elder thus remained the best-known and most productive family member.
James Marrow, one of the first scholars to consider Glockendon’s work, has particularly noted the influence of Simon Bening, who also worked on commissions from Cardinal Albrecht. Bening’s influence is visible in the calendar miniatures and Ghent-Bruges style border decoration of naturalistic strewn-flowers and fruits framing miniatures and texts. Glockendon employs one of the richest palettes in the whole of German Renaissance painting; his abilities as a colourist are remarkable. He creates a sumptuous interplay of varied and unexpected hues through shading, gold highlights, and bright hues, producing a greater sense of volume and atmospheric space with little reliance on linear perspective. Glockendon was an artist of high technical achievement. His reliance on the compositions of Dürer and other artists should be considered within the concept of imitation in medieval art, which was a continuing tradition and an artistic appreciation and appraisal of predecessors’ works.
This work is now in the collection of the Bavarian State Library in Munich, BSB Cgm 9601. It is fully digitised here.