The Bowet Book of Hours was made in Bruges around 1410-1420. Its realist style and innovative iconography provide an important link between painting in the pre-Eyckian period and the great revival of Flemish painting initiated by the van Eyck brothers, as well as announcing the break with the international mannerist style currently in vogue in Europe. The production of pre-Eyckian manuscripts was a decisive element in the rise of Bruges towards the golden age it experienced under the Flemish primitive artists.
The Bowet Book of Hours owes its name to the various members of the Bowet family mentioned in the calendar at the beginning of the manuscript. These were no doubt the first owners and were probably of English origin. In addition to this reference the person(s) who commissioned the work, the calendar is also characterised by the presence of saints who were particularly venerated in England. The type of manuscript can be considered as a variation of that of the Sarum Book of Hours linked to the Archbishop of Salisbury. It is not surprising that such manuscripts were commissioned for export from Bruges. Flemish manuscripts were in great demand internationally, particularly in England, thanks to the workshops’ reputation for excellent organization and the quality of their work.
The prayer book contains 16 full-page miniatures. They are particularly refined and striking because of the richness and strength of the colours. The characters, with their doll-like faces, are slender and elegant. In-depth research is currently under way in the hope of being able to identify the workshop that made the book of hours, although it has already been established that several artists collaborated to create it.
The rarity of this type of manuscript, made in Bruges in the early 15th century, and the outstanding quality of its execution mean that it is undeniably part of our heritage. The Bowet Book of Hours is now being returned to its place of origin and will become part of the permanent collection of Public Library in Bruges.