The Léon Courtin-Marcelle Bouché Fund, managed by the King Baudouin Foundation, has recently acquired the Biese family’s book of hours. Created in Ghent around 1500, the manuscript shows the art of illumination in the workshops of Ghent at the end of the 15th or the start of the 16th century. It honours the saints of the Ghent region, including Saint Livinus, Saint Bavo and Saint Amand.
Nicolaas I Biese and his wife Margareta Verdebroeck, who commissioned the work, are represented at prayer with their children, in front of the Virgin and their patron saints. Folio 128 (‘Desen bouc was vulhendt int iaer ons heeren xvc ende twee En bidt voor hem dien screef want hy seer aerme van duechden bleef') has enabled the manuscript to be dated.
The last pages were added by Nicolaas III Biese, in honour of his great-grandfather Nicolaas I who had commissioned the work. They contain an emblazoned family tree that begins with the great-grandfather of Nicolaas I. The principal families of Ghent, such as the Steelan, Sersanders and Everaert, feature here.
The STAM, Ghent’s city museum, foresees carrying out in-depth research on the work in order to provide a more detailed context relating both to the commissioner and his family and to the miniature workshops, about which little is known at present.
As part of the permanent collection of the City of Ghent’s museum, the Biese manuscript will be exhibited in the room devoted to Ghent in the Middle Ages.