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Historiated initial with a signed self-portrait of William de Brailes in 'The de Brailes Hours' f.43r

Historiated initial with a signed self-portrait of William de Brailes in 'The de Brailes Hours' f.43r

Medium: Ink, pigments and gold on vellum

Date: 1240

Shelfmark: Additional MS 49999

Item number: f.43r

Length: 150

Width: 124

Scale: Millimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

William de Brailes is the only 13th-century English non-monastic illuminator known to have signed his work. His surname means 'from Brailes', a town in Warwickshire, about 30 miles north of Oxford. Documentary sources reveal that he lived and worked in Oxford, with his wife Celena, in a bookmaking community based around the present site of the chapel of All Souls College. His distinctive painting style has been recognised in several manuscripts, of which this is perhaps the most important. It is the earliest extant English Book of Hours (a book containing prayers to be said at certain hours of the day), and includes two self-portraits. The initial 'C' shows a tonsured figure praying, with the hand of God above. To the left the red inscription reads 'W de brail q. me depeint': i.e. 'W. de Brailes, who painted me'.

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