Book of Hours of Alfonso d’Este


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Illuminated Facsimiles

Book of Hours of Alfonso d’Este

Alternative titles
Collectanae offitiorum parvorum, aliarumque piorum precem ad usum Serenissimi Alphonsi Ducis Ferrariae III – Libro de Horas de Alfonso de Este – Stundenbuch des Alfonso d’Este – Libro d’Ore di Alfonso d’Este – Livre d’Heures de Alphonse d’Este.
Physical features
Codex on parchment, dimensions 270 x 180 mm, 199 folios (398 pages) not taking into account the dismemberment into two parts that it underwent in the 19th century.
Italy (Ferrara), 16th century (1505-1510).
The manuscript was created on a commission from Alfonso I d’Este (b. 1476, d. 1534), Duke of Ferrara.
Subsequent history of the manuscript
At the end of the 16th century, with the devolution of Ferrara to the Papal States and the transfer of ducal power to Modena, the precious codex was transported to the new capital of the duchy. At the end of the 18th century – following the French invasion – Ercole III d’Este (b. 1727, d. 1803) was forced to leave Modena. The Book of Hours of Alfonso d’Este, together with the other two masterpieces belonging to the House of Este – namely the Bible of Borso and the Breviary of Ercole I – was transported to Venice and then to Treviso, where Ercole III spent the last years of his life. In 1831 the manuscript was again in Modena, but after the annexation of the duchy to the Kingdom of Sardinia in 1859, Francis V (b. 1819, d. 1875) left Modena and transferred it to Vienna. By this time, it had already undergone severe mutilation: 14 folios with illuminated scenes had been removed and deprived of their frames. In 1900, the German scholar Hermann Julius Hermann confirmed this damage in his publication «Zur Geschichte der Miniaturmalerei am Hofe der Este in Ferrara» (On the History of the Miniature at the Este Court in Ferrara), stating that he had found the 14 folios in the Gallery of the Academy of Science and Arts in Zagreb. After the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the establishment of the Republic of German Austria, on 23 March 1919 Charles I of Austria (b. 1887, d. 1922) fled to Switzerland with the imperial family, taking the Book of Hours of Alfonso d’Este, the Bible and the Breviary with him. A few years later Zita of Bourbon-Parma (b. 1892, d. 1989), by then the widow of Charles I, was forced to sell the three masterpieces of the House of Este and the manuscript was sold to the French antiquarian M.J. Bourdariat. The last stage in its troubled history took place in 1924, when Bourdariat sold it to the Armenian businessman and collector Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian (b. 1869, d. 1955).
Present repository
The fragment purchased by Gulbenkian is today in the Museu Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon, with the shelfmark L.A. 149. The Strossmayerova Galerija in Zagreb preserves the 14 folios removed in the 19th century.
ChristianityPrivate devotional books.
Calendar (ff. 1r-12v); representative fragments from the four Gospels (ff. 13r-23v); Officium Beatae Virginis Mariae (ff. 28r-80v); Penitential Psalms (ff. 81r-93v); Office of the Dead (ff. 94r-119v); Office of the Cross (ff. 120r-122r); Office of the Holy Spirit (ff. 123r-125r); orations (ff. 126r-147v); devout contemplation of the Virgin Mary weeping before the Cross (ff. 147v-149v); hymns (ff. 149v-152v); prayer (f. 152v); contemplation of St. Bernard in the memory of the name of Jesus Christ (ff. 153r-158r); orations (ff. 158v-161r); hymn (f. 161r); orations (ff. 161v-165r); commemoration of the Saints and prayer to God (ff. 166r-179r).
The fragment preserved at the Museu Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon comprises 29 fully illuminated folios, with decorated initials of varying workmanship throughout the text. The 14 folios kept at the Strossmayerova Galerija in Zagreb present only the central illuminated scene, since – following the severe mutilation suffered in the 19th century – they were deprived of their outer frame.
Although the miniatures are by an anonymous artist, they are undoubtedly to be attributed to the Lombard miniaturist Matteo da Milano. Given the deep connection between the two works, it is worth remembering that Matteo da Milano had also worked on the Breviary of Ercole I d’Este.

Data sheet: Illuminated Facsimiles®



Offiziolo Alfonsino

Publisher(s) – Il Bulino edizioni d’arte (Modena, 2002).
Series – Ars Illuminandi.
Limited edition – 899 copies – marked with Arabic numeration – are numbered from 1 to 899 and intended for trade. A further 100 copies – marked with Roman numerals – are numbered from I to C and are reserved for the Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturalli and the institutions owning the originals.
Type of reproduction – Full-size colour reproduction of all the fragments of the original document which once formed a single document. The facsimile reproduces the physical characteristics of the original manuscript as closely as possible, with the aim of substituting it in scientific research and in the libraries of bibliophile collectors.
Binding – Gold framed red leather binding, corresponding to that of the Lisbon fragment.
Commentary – Commentary volume in Italian, size 18 x 24 cm, 285 pages. Essays by: Manuela Fidalgo; Sanja Cvetnic; Paola Di Pietro Lombardi; Giancarlo Malacarne; Ernesto Milano. Full transcription of the manuscript in Italian language.
Slipcase – The facsimile and the commentary volume are housed in a half-leather slipcase.
ISBN – 88-86251-50-5.

Copyright photos: Il Bulino edizioni d’arte; Illuminated Facsimiles®

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Il Bulino edizioni d'arte