It is not generally appreciated that some of the very finest artworks of the Renaissance were produced by manuscript illuminators from Italy, France and Flanders. Flemish artists, working under the patronage of the Dukes of Burgundy, created extravagant manuscripts in which the art of illumination was revitalised.
Although the Très Riches Heures of John, Duke of Berry (now in the Musée Condé, Chantilly) is unique and justifiably famous, it is only one of many devotional works of superb quality.
The work of Simon Marmion, Gerard David, Simon Bening and other, often anonymous, painters were sought after by the monarchs and courtiers of Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, England, Scotland and Germany. The British Library's collection includes manuscripts made for Edward IV, Henry VII and Henry VIII.
These books, each of which can contain as many as 50 miniatures in vibrant colour, offer excellent evidence for our understanding of early Netherlandish painting. Unlike many panel or canvas oil paintings by Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, Hans Memling or Pieter Breugel the Elder, they have never needed to be retouched, varnished or cleaned. Their survival in such numbers seems remarkable, given the religious and political upheavals of the time.
In this virtual exhibition 28 images from the rich collections of Flemish manuscripts in the British Library, selected by curator Dr Scot McKendrick, accompany a time line of landmarks of European history from 1400 to 1550.