This book boasts an endless variety of borders showing naturalistic flowers, which look as if they have been plucked from hedgerows and meadows and scattered across the manuscript’s pages. At one time, the illumination was ascribed to the Master of the Dresden Prayerbook, and our manuscript undeniably belongs within his immediate circle. However, Bodo Brinkmann, the leading expert on the Dresden Master, isolated the hand at work here as a new artist, whom he has named after the Book of Hours made for Janneke Bollengier.
The calendar miniatures of Flemish Books of Hours are – as in the present book – frequently conceived as full-page scenes over which a text panel appears to have been superimposed. Such miniatures are among the earliest purely secular landscapes in western art, and they provide fascinating windows into the unfolding cycle of medieval farming through the seasons. The countless floral borders throughout the text pages are also striking features of our book. Each of the seventeen historiated initials is, furthermore, accompanied by a three-quarter border, while the sixteen full-page miniatures and their facing pages are all framed by full borders. These are painted with great elegance and craftsmanship, with the principle of trompe l’oeil (optical illusion) realised in many places with incredible artistry. As is typical for Flemish manuscripts, the miniatures were painted on separate sheets and inserted into the book block. Nevertheless, the borders across the double openings are always homogenous in style.
This wonderfully illuminated Book of Hours was once housed in the prestigious library of the Dukes of Arenberg and later passed on to other celebrated collections. The compositions of our miniatures are based on the classical examples from the zenith of early Flemish panel painting, from the likes of Jan van Eyck, Hugo van der Goes, or Rogier van der Weyden