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(French, active Rouen, 1460–80)
Ink, tempera, and gold on vellum
Codex: 19.5 x 13.1 cm (7 11/16 x 5 3/16 in.)
Gift of the Feiss family in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Paul L. Feiss 1952.227.13.a
A regular feature in books of hours after the 1400s is gospel lessons. These texts come from the Bible and are what make a book of hours sacred. In lavish editions, images of the evangelists believed to have written the Gospels—Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John—introduce the texts. The gospel lessons describe God’s divine plan beginning with the Annunciation, or announcement to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive a son by the power of the Holy Spirit. They continue with the story of Christ’s birth and the visitation of the three magi, or kings. The lessons end with the resurrection of Christ after the Crucifixion and his ascension into heaven. At the time of use, households did not own Bibles, making the inclusion of these texts, which had once been solely the provision of the ordained, precious.
The rubric, or red text, of the recto (right) page says Secundum Iohanne, or Gospel of John, indicating the gospel lessons’ beginning. The page is enhanced with an image of the four evangelists writing the Gospels. At top left is John, with an eagle, writing while the devil tries to thwart him by stealing his inkwell. Beside this is Matthew, at a traditional desk, an angel kneeling nearby. In the text row are Mark with a lion and Luke with an ox.
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