Turismo Prerrománico > LIBRO DE HORAS DE LUIS DE LAVAL


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Notas Previas

  • Reference: Biblioteca Nacional de Francia, Lat. 920
  • Dimensions: 243 x 172 mm.
  • 700 vellum pages
  • 1234 thumbnails, 147 full page.
  • Full facsimile of Siloé. art and bibliophilia.

Entorno histórico

Throughout the Late Middle Ages there is a shift in the religious practice of Christian Europe towards more individualistic forms of piety that develop more personal and direct ways of communicating with God, which encourages the appearance of hour books. These reflect the personal devotions of the characters who commission them, to the point that in the sixteenth century they will come to have contents so heterodox that they led the Church to its prohibition to avoid dangerous deviations, although by then these books of hours were already one of the most interesting groups of works of art of his time and at the same time are a reflection of the religious spirit at the end of the European Middle Ages.

Louis de Laval, son of a Breton aristocratic family, was lord of wide dominions who always supported Charles VII of France against the English in the Hundred Years’ War, knight of the Order of St.Michael and held positions of great importance in the Court. A leading bibliophile, he counted on the best miniaturists in France to make his Book of Hours, a fundamental work of the workshop of Jean Colombe, an artist who had already participated in The Book of the Very Rich Hours of the Duke of Berry. That of Lavall, which was begun around 1470-1475 and continued between 1485-1489, also collaborated such important artists as Jean Fouquet, one of the most famous painters and illuminators of the second half of the fifteenth century, the Master of the Yale Missal or Guillaume Piqueau among others.

The book was bequeathed to Anne of France, Duchess of Bourbon and later passed to the royal collections in the confiscation of property to the Constable of Bourbon. Currently preserved in the National Library of France.


The books of hours, which appeared at the end of the twelfth century, collected in abbreviated form the prayer programs of the clergy, distributed at specific times of the day, for use by the laity. From the long series of liturgies that monks used to recite in canonical hours, the books of hours select the simplest, usually focusing on the Office of the Virgin, the Penitential Psalms and the Office of the Deceased, preserving the daily cadence and ritual patterns of the hour. They used to be preceded by the calendar and the santoral to which variants were added such as new prayers, evangelical passages or other reflections of the tendencies and devotions of the environment in which they were written, at the same time that they were conforming to the tastes and religious preferences of the person to whom they are dedicated, to the point that they became valuable family art objects passed down from generation to generation as a safeguard of family history, initially of the high nobility, which was extended to the large families of the bourgeoisie.

The Book of Hours by Lavall is a 700-page manuscript in vellum of 243 x 172 mm, a small format like that of most manuscripts of this type. With its 1,234 miniatures decorated with a profusion of gold, 157 full-page of them, it constitutes an exceptional iconographic set, recognized as the most spectacular book of hours, one of the most magnificent examples of French lighting of the whole fifteenth century, considered the most widely decorated manuscript prior to printing.

It is impossible in this context to make the description of a work like this, the result of the will of a great bibliophile who did not notice
means to get the best French artists of the time to collaborate with the workshop of Jean Colombes. among which stands out the great Jean Fouquet, who became the king’s paintery.

It is important to note here that a work of this category requires a thorough planning of the work of the artists and the execution of each miniature, which used to begin with a first stage of general drawing on the parchment, to continue with the colouring of the background, then that of the characters, to finish with the head and the face, tasks that could correspond to different artists, reserving faces for the highest quality. In this case much of the faces are attributed to the so-called “Master of the faces of Christ” which is distinguished by their gently velvety faces of serene expression, although the most significant miniatures are finished by the most renowned artists such as Piqueau, Colombe or Fouquet. For example, the image of Luis de Lavall in folio 51, considered the artistic summit of the manuscript, is attributed to Fouquet himself.

This book of hours can be considered as the best exponent of the French society of the late Middle Ages, already Renaissance, its religiosity, so different from that of the previous centuries, its culture and the level of quality to which came the art of Miniature, in a work in which the best painters of that era participate as the artistic summit of the manuscript, is attributed to Fouquet himself.



Siloé, LIBRO DE HORAS DE LUIS DE LAVAL. ESTUDIOS  Christine Seidel y Samuel Gras