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Early morning prayers, Hours of the Virgin, in the Salvin Hours

Early morning prayers, Hours of the Virgin, in the Salvin Hours

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1275

Shelfmark: Additional MS 48985

Item number: f.2r

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. The pre-dawn prayers (Matins of the Virgin) begin with decorated letters. The larger one is historiated (filled with a picture) with the Betrayal of Christ, showing Judas kissing him. A lay woman's face gazes upon the scene from a leaf in the marginal decoration. The main image was meant as a devotional aid for the owner to contemplate and identify with the suffering of Jesus as a spiritual exercise and penance. In a smaller image (at the beginning of a Psalm), a priest carries out a more literal penance upon an unfortunate man. The peacock in the lower margin further beautifies the page but also it could serve as a symbol of Christ.

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