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Tree of Jesse, in the Salvin Hours

Tree of Jesse, in the Salvin Hours

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1275

Shelfmark: Additional MS 48985

Item number: f.1v

Length: 32

Width: 20.6

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated Manuscript

Named for its 17th- to early 20th-century owners, the Salvin Hours is one of the largest and most richly decorated English books of hours. Its decoration, created by two artists, resembles contemporary wall paintings in the Oxford area, suggesting that it was made in a workshop there. Its original owner probably was a high-status person living in Lincoln because it also resembles 13th-century books of hours associated with that city. It lacks a calendar, which would have helped to locate its original place of use because it would have listed saints' feasts special to a particular place. The Hours of the Virgin was borrowed from the prayerbook used by monks to become the core of the Book of Hours.

Matins was the hour of the first prayers of the day and was said well before dawn. In the Salvin Hours, the first letter of Matins of the Virgin bears a complex image of the Tree of Jesse, showing him asleep with the tree of his descendents arising from his body. Figures of David, two Old Testament kings, the Virgin and Christ on framed gold-leaf backgrounds are flanked by prophets, cherubim and scenes of Jesus' childhood (the Annunciation, Nativity, Shepherds, Magi, etc.). Looking at it, the reader could contemplate the belief in the Virgin Mary's important place within the unfolding of salvation and see her as a powerful helper to humans.

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