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Mid-afternoon Prayers and Musicians and Dancers, in a Book of Hours

Mid-afternoon Prayers and Musicians and Dancers, in a Book of Hours

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1260

Shelfmark: Egerton MS 1151

Item number: f.47r

Length: 16

Width: 10.2

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

Early books of hours have types of pictures and decoration which tend not to appear in ones made later on, after the programme of subject matter for pictures and decoration became established. This book of hours includes unusual pictures and texts, such as the Hours of the Holy Spirit and of the Passion, which were exceptional in a prayerbook of the mid-13th century. Some of the texts were recommended in contemporary treatises for the devotions of anchoresses, suggesting that it was made originally for such a religious woman. Its calendar of saints' feasts include many that were associated with the West Midlands. The Hours of the Virgin was a gathering of Psalms and other biblical texts. It had been part of the prayerbook used by monks but became the core of the Book of Hours. The Hours of the Virgin provided prayers to be said at certain hours of the day. 'None' was midafternoon. The first letter of the prayer for none in the Hours of the Virgin holds a picture of musicians and dancers, possibly in reference to the music of the psalms. The Book of Psalms traditionally was illustrated with images of musicians and dancers. This particular Book of Hours, however, seems to find its subject matter in daily activities. So the scene could as well relate to aristocratic activities. The drawing is extraordinarily delicate: the tiny musical instruments are shown in detail.

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