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Fear and Worship in Paris: Leaf from miniature French Book of Hours (early 15th c.)




France, likely Paris (86  x 65 mm) 12 lines in finely executed Gothic script in Latin. Single column of text surrounded by border of ivy on recto. One 5-line illuminated initial, one 2-line illuminated initial, 5 single line illuminated initials.


The Art:


The upper reaches of the inner border terminates in a floral spray reminiscent of the top of the main staircase in the Tour Jean-sans-Peur (John without Fear), the only remains of the original residence of the Counts of Artois and Dukes of Burgundy in Paris.

A border consisting of (nearly) exclusively ivy indicates the Parisian origin. A common strategy in medieval borders was to embed symbolism in the margins to prompt the reader to reflect on the significance. Interwoven within the ivy are a strawberry and a thistle (perhaps a subtle nod at the relationship between France and Scotland).


The Text:


This tiny book was designed to fit comfortably into the hands of its noble reader and guide them through the canonical hours of the day. The prayer on this leaf, “Deus, in adiutorium” [God attend to my help], is the first line of Psalm 70, which would have acted to remind the reader of the whole psalm and its response, "Domine, ad adiuvandum me festina” (Lord, speed to help me).


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