n De Arte - A luxury printed Book of Hours in the Grey Collection : the painting of metal and woodcut illuminations in the sixteenth century : research

Volume 2014, Issue 90
  • ISSN : 0004-3389



This article concerns one of the eight early printed Books of Hours in the Grey Collection of the National Library in Cape Town. These books were all printed in Paris between 1498 and 1530, and had been bought by Sir George Grey when he was governor of the Cape Colony between 1854 and 1861. One of the books, called here Book 4b4 according to its shelf number, is by far the most glamorous of the eight. Book 4b4, printed in 1514, was intended to be a deluxe (and therefore expensive) edition and it is extremely attractive, having 23 full-page illuminations and coloured border pictures on every page. A comparison with another Book of Hours in the Grey Collection, Book 7a18, printed in 1513, shows that four of its five large illuminations had been painted over the same metalcuts as similar pictures in Book 4b4. It is also possible to compare the illuminations in Book 4b4 with those in two other Books of Hours, printed in 1510 and 1515, where many of the same metalcuts were used. The study sheds new light on the different ways in which metalcuts were painted by different artists and shows that artists imposed their own styles despite painting over the same metalcuts.

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