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A masterpiece of the art of illumination in Florence


The Book of Hours of Lorenzo de' Medici

Firenze, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Ms. Ashburnam 1874

This codex is one of the five “libriccini delli offitii, di donna” (small books of the offices, for the use of ladies) of the inventory drawn up in 1492 following the death of Lorenzo de’ Medici, who commissioned them for the weddings of his daughters.

The description, “for the use of ladies”, seems already to indicate that the works are small and also precious, like a jewel – each a work to be consigned to the loving care of a lady of the Renaissance.

With its small 10 x 15 cm format, this Ashburnham 1874 codex is hardly larger than a postcard. Before even considering the content, one is struck by its extraordinary violet velvet binding, with gilded silver filigree work bosses and ferrules. The covers also feature a large lapis lazuli and four rose quartzes.

In all its parts, this codex is most surely a work of the highest order. This is quite evident in its binding, the harmonious script and the marvellously refined illumination work, ascribed to the engraver, illuminator, cartographer and painter, Francesco Rosselli, who (like Francesco di Antonio del Chierico) was a major exponent of the Florentine school.  Each of the 233 leafs of the manuscript includes at least one adornment, an initial or frieze, included with such artistry, awareness of the conventions, and harmony that it cannot fail to delight the eye of even the most discerning and exacting bibliophile.

Photographic atlas

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