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The Sforza Hours - Introduction

Image of The Sforza Hours cover
British Library Add. MS 59874
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The Sforza Hours is one of the finest surviving Renaissance manuscripts. It is a Book of Hours - a volume, designed for private use by a private person, containing the prayers and offices to be said at the eight times of the day allotted by the church to prayer. Like most Books of Hours, its pages are small (13.3 cm high x 10 cm wide); the manuscript was designed to be carried easily by the owner.

The lavish decoration of the Sforza Hours was painted in two stages: the first around 1490 for Bona Sforza, widow of Galeazzo Sforza, Duke of Milan, and the second for her nephew's widow, Margaret of Austria, Regent of the Netherlands, who inherited the manuscript in 1504.

Giovan Pietro Birago, Bona Sforza's miniaturist, had completed and delivered part of the book when a substantial part of the remainder was stolen, never to be returned. Thirty years later, between 1517 and 1520, Margaret of Austria commissioned Gerard Horenbout to paint 16 additional miniatures to fill the gaps caused by the theft and to complement Birago's work.

British Library Add. MS 34294


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