Books of Hours were often made to order by professional scribes and illuminators in Paris in the 14th and 15th century. This one was made in the city in around 1420. By 1453, it was in the possession of the English Umfray family, as evidenced by the fact that the wedding of John and Eleanor Umfray and the birth of their daughter, Joan Umfray, have been added in the manuscript’s calendar of saints. The images in the first half of the manuscript were painted by a renowned Paris artist, known as the ‘Master of the Royal Alexander’, who takes his name from a richly illuminated copy of a romance about Alexander the Great (d. 323 BC), which was produced between 1420 and 1425 and was part of the Old Royal Library by 1542.
Once the Book of Hours reached England, a number of additional images were included, by an English artist imitating the early French style. For example, at the beginning of the Office of the Dead there is an image of a requiem mass (image no. 1). The figures of two male mourners in the foreground may represent members of the Umfray family.
- Article by:
- Alixe Bovey
Images of the afterlife dominate illuminated manuscripts, paintings, sculptures and literature in the Middle Ages. Dr Alixe Bovey examines how ideas of Heaven, Hell and Purgatory impacted on everday life.