Les Heures Tavernier

In 2001, the King Baudouin Foundation acquired one of the rare manuscripts from the Dukes of Burgundy’s library that was still in private hands. The Heures Tavernier is an exceptional book of hours in more than one way: not only was it part of a famous library; it also contains extremely rare prayers that had been commissioned by the sovereign himself. Decorated by talented illuminators, the book also still has its original binding, signed by Antoine de Gavere.

At the end of the Middle Ages, the book of hours was without doubt the most popular prayer book. Every member of the nobility and upper classes who could read had to have a book of hours in his or her library. These prayer books were designed for lay people to use in their daily prayers and unlike prayer books for priests and those in religious orders, the book of hours concerned itself more with life outside: it contained a calendar, extracts from the gospels, prayers for a death and the “Little hours of the Virgin Mary”, from which, by extension, such prayer books took their name. A book of hours could be bought on the open market, but it could also be commissioned, in which case it could be completely personalized with selected prayers and richly illuminated by a favourite miniaturist. A book of hours could thus become an object of luxury that enhanced its owner’s prestige.

Philippe le Bon would have commissioned this book of hours from Jean Tavernier, renowned at the time for the quality of his work and most of the 27 illuminations were done by him. For some unknown reason, the artist had to interrupt his work, leaving the work incomplete on the Duke’s death. His son, Charles le Téméraire, had the book completed by another renowned miniaturist, Loyset Liédet, also from Artois, who illuminated six folios. Two scenes were made by a third, anonymous miniaturist. The binding is by the renowned bookbinder from Bruges, Antoine de Gavere.

Website Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique

Further information about the Heritage Fund (in French)

Type: 
Illuminated manuscript
Material / technique: 
Ink and paint on parchment, bound in calf leather
Dimensions: 
18,7 x 12,4 cms
Type of acquisition: 
Heritage Fund Acquisition
Year of acquisition: 
2001
Depository institution: 
Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique, Brussels