Hours of Catherine of Cleves

The Hours of Catherine of Cleves (The Hours, Morgan Library and Museum, M. 917; and M. 945, less widely known as the Guennol Hours, and rarely known as the Arenberg Hours) is an ornately illustrated manuscript, produced by the anonymous Dutch artist, the Master of Catherine of Cleves, in c. 1440 in the Gothic art style. It is one of the most lavishly illuminated manuscripts to survive from the 15th century and has been described as the zenith of Northern European illumination. Plummer, John. The Hours of Catherine of Cleves. New York, George Braziller, 1966.] Rouse, Richard. Book Review of The Book of Hours of Catherine of Cleves by John Plummer. Speculum, v. 40, n. 3, 1965. (538-540).] This Book of Hours contains the usual offices, prayers and litanies in Latin, along with supplemental texts, decorated with 157 colorful and gilded illuminations. Today, both manuscripts that form this book are housed at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City, U.S.A. [http://corsair.morganlibrary.org/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?v1=8&ti=1,8&SEQ=20070924173624&Search%5FArg=%22ms%20m%2E917%22&Search%5FCode=CMD&CNT=50&PID=vTq_iA_f2txmR0elq7wEAQBH4&SID=5 Morgan] ]



The Hours of Catherine of Cleves (The Hours) was commissioned for Catherine, Duchess of Guelders and Countess of Zutphen, upon the occasion of her marriage to Arnold, Duke of Guelders, on 26 January 1430. Dr. John Plummer, Curator of Mediaeval Manuscripts at the Morgan Library, suggested that this Horae was commissioned for the wedding in 1430, but it required time to complete. The Hours was produced in Utrecht after 1434, and probably completed around 1440. The start date is based on the picture of a coin, minted in 1434 by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, shown in the border of M. 917, p. 240; Plummer, Plate 117. Wieck, Roger S. Painted Prayers: the Book of Hours in Medieval and Renaissance Art. NY: George Braziller, 1997. ISBN 0807614181 ]


The Hours was commissioned for Catherine of Cleves by either her father Plummer, John. The Book of Hours of Catherine of Cleves. New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, 1964.] or her husband. Since the 11th century, the town of Cleves had been the home of the venerable and wealthy Counts of Cleves. The Counts were elevated to a ducal house in 1417, the year Catherine was born. The Cleves family seat is the Schwanenburg, the Swan Castle, with its massive square tower, the Schwanenturm, the Tower of the Knights of the Swan, which is immortalized in Richard Wagner's opera, "Lohengrin".

The first two full page miniatures celebrate her illustrious lineage. The first page shows Catherine of Cleves kneeling before the Virgin and the Christ Child, who take a personal interest in her salvation. Catherine is identified by her arms, in the center bottom, shown with those of her husband, Duke Arnold of Guelders. The borders of both pages are decorated with an heraldic display of the Arms of her eight great-great grandfathers:

:::Count Diderik of Cleves, :::Count Engelbert of Mark, :::Duke Ludwig of Bavaria, :::Duke Ludwig of Liegnitz, :::King Jean the Good of France, :::Duke Lodewijk of Flanders, :::Duke Wilhelm of Julich, and :::Duke Otto of Ravensberg. [http://corsair.morganlibrary.org/msdescr/BBM0945.htm Morgan] ]

Catherine of Cleves is shown kneeling before "The Virgin and the Christ Child", M. 945, folio 1 verso; Plummer, Plate 1. She is shown giving alms in "Piety", the sixth gift of the Holy Spirit, M. 917, p. 65; Plummer, Plate 57. Catherine is also shown kneeling, with the Virgin, before Christ, in "The Crucifixion", M. 917, p. 160; Plummer, Plate 96.

Her husband, Arnold, Duke of Guelders, may be the lord shown kneeling before Christ in "Fear of the Lord", the seventh gift of the Holy Spirit, M. 917, p. 58; Plummer, Plate 58. In the reconstructed book, his portrait follows that of Catherine’s in "Piety". And, some of his coinage is shown in the border of M. 917, p. 240; Plummer, Plate 117.


The Master of Catherine of Cleves was the anonymous illuminator, who is named after this masterpiece of Dutch illumination. The Cleves Master might have been a member of the van Aken family of painters. A study of the miniatures indicates that the Cleves Master designed and painted over 157 miniatures, as well as the principal border decorations, with minimal assistance from two workshop assistants. Walther, Ingo F. and Norbert Wolf. Codices Illustres: The world's most famous illuminated manuscripts, 400 to 1600. Köln, TASCHEN, 2005. ] The Cleves Master was daring and original. Hell was usually not depicted in Books of Hours, though normal in the Last Judgements in churches, because the sight was thought unwelcome to the often female patrons. The Master’s "Mouth of Hell" at the beginning of the Office of the Dead shows a frightening Hell. [ [http://www.morganlibrary.org/collections/collections.asp?id=89 Morgan image] ] . This tableau of demons tormenting the souls of the dead was painted nearly 50 yrs before Hieronymus Bosch painted his.

The Cleves Master is often cited as a clear example of an artist using marginal genre scenes which relate to the religious scenes in the main miniatures above - the extent to which such effects were intended by other artists is much debated, but in his case it is undeniable. Details of the book relate very closely to details in the Merode Altarpiece by Robert Campin (or a follower), and suggest strongly that the master knew works by Campin. [ [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0004-3079%28194509%2927%3A3%3C182%3A%22DTSOT%3E2.0.CO%3B2-6&size=LARGE&origin=JSTOR-enlargePage JSTOR, Art Bulletin] reprinted in: Meyer Schapiro, Selected Papers, volume 3, Late Antique, Early Christian and Mediaeval Art, 1980, Chatto & Windus, London, ISBN 0701125144, and: Lane, Barbara G,"The Altar and the Altarpiece, Sacramental Themes in Early Netherlandish Painting", pp. 42-47]

He used antithesis and unusual iconography to convey irony and humor. [ [http://kelty.rice.edu/375/lectures/medieval0205.html Border of nets and cages] ] Saint James the Less was known for his abstinence, so the border depicts men drinking wine. Saint Gregory, the great Church administrator, is shown with a border of gold and silver coins. Saint Peter is painted with the key of the Church, standing above a triskelion (a reference to the Trinity) of fresh fish as the "fisher of men". Saint Lawrence is shown with the grill of his martyrdom, and the alms purse attribute as the patron of the poor. His delightful border shows fresh fish, which are ready for grilling, and the big fish eating the little fish, representing the rich devouring the poor, a common 15th-16th century literary and pictorial theme. 30 years later, these fantastic trompe l’oeil borders were to influence the work of the Master of Mary of Burgundy.

The Cleves Master was a superb realist who embraced scenes of 15th century Utrecht. The Holy Family at dinner depicts a mundane Saint Joseph, wearing clogs and spooning gruel, while reclining in a barrel chair in front of a lively fire. [ [http://www.godecookery.com/afeast/kitchens/kit023.jpgImage] ] The Virgin is seated on the other side of the fire, suckling Jesus in her neat, orderly kitchen, as neat and orderly as the Master's desire for system and organization in the stories begun in one miniature, and continuing within the borders of subsequent pages. There is little repetition, and the miniatures form a harmonious whole.

By reconstructing The Hours from the two principal manuscripts, one can see the Master grow as an artist over the several years it took to illuminate The Hours. The early miniatures and iconography are comparable to the contemporary panel art of Robert Campin and van Eyck, and share many close similarities. The later miniatures are painted with the imagination, originality, and vibrant colors that characterize Early Netherlandish painting and the later developments of that tradition. This originality of technique and awareness of everyday life prompted Delaissé to call the Cleves Master "the ancestor of the 17th century Dutch school of painting."

Modern period

After being lost for 400 or so years, the Hours of Catherine of Cleves surfaced in 1856. Jacques Joseph Techener, a Parisian book dealer, offered The Hours for sale at 15,000 francs. At some time before 1896, Prince Charles d’Arenberg purchased The Hours (M 945); or rather, he bought half of The Hours.

In 1963, Frederick Adams was offered another "Cleves Master Horae" (M 917) by an un-named European owner. A comparison of this discovered book with the "Guennol Hours" (M 945) revealed that not only were they by the same artist, and from the same workshop, but both "Horae" were incomplete and complemented each other. This observation suggested that they were once a single volume, which had been deliberately disassembled into two separate liturgical books. Scholars believe that sometime in the 1850s, The Hours was separated into two volumes, and several pages were removed. Microscopic examination revealed that some of the rubrics had been deliberately erased, so the leaves could be reassembled without a tell-tale break in the text. The two volumes have been recovered; but, the 9-12 missing pages are presumed lost.

In 1970, the "Guennol Hours" (M.945) was purchased by the Pierpont Morgan Library through the Belle da Costa Greene Foundation, with additional assistance of various Library Fellows. By studying the text, the iconography, and the physical makeup of the two volumes, Dr John Plummer, Morgan Library Curator of Medieval Manuscripts, reconstructed the original sequence of the original, single volume of the "Hours of Catherine of Cleves".


:::Catherine, Duchess of Guelders, for whom it was made, 1440-1445 (single volume) :::Ermengard of Lochhorst, who allegedly received it from Catherine:::Disappeared for 400 years :::Jacques Techener, Parisian Book dealer, 1856 (divided into 2 volumes: M 945, M 917; and missing pages)::M917:::Baron Maurice de Rothschild, 1936 (M 917):::Frederick Adams, Bookseller, discovers another Cleves Master "Horae", 1963 (M 917) :::Morgan Library and Museum, purchased 1963 (M 917)::M945:::Prince Charles d’Arenberg, purchased before 1896 (M 945) :::Duchess Julie d’Arenberg (M 945) :::Duke Engelbert d’Arenberg (M 945) :::Duke Engelbert-Marie d’Arenberg exhibited as the "Arenberg Hours" in Düsseldorf, 1904 (M 945) :::Hans P. Kraus, Bookseller, 1958 (M 945) :::Alistair Bradley Martin (Guennol Collection), 1958 (M 945):::Exhibited at the Rijksmuseum as the "Guennol Hours", 1958 (M 945):::Hans P. Kraus, Art Dealer, 1970 (M 945):::Morgan Library and Museum, purchased 1970 (M 945; reconstructed, M 917 & M 945)


Classification = Gothic manuscript and a book of hours (Latin: Horae = "Hours")

Illuminated by the Master of Catherine of Cleves, and at least two assistants, in Utrecht, the Netherlands, ca. 1440.

M 945 = Vellum, 193 leaves, 7 1/2 x 5 1/8 inches (192 x 130 mm), with 63 miniatures, bound in 19th c. red velvet.

M 917 = Vellum, 328 leaves, 7 1/2 x 5 1/8 inches (192 x 130 mm), with 94 miniatures, in a 19th century binding, with spine marked "Heures de Catherine de Cleves / Martyrologie". [http://corsair.morganlibrary.org/msdescr/BBM0917.htm Morgan] ]

Estimated number of pages missing: 9-12
Based on the series of saints in the Suffrages, Saint Quirinus, Saint Margaret and two other saints are missing. At least five to eight other pages are missing, too.


Books of hours were extremely popular in the late medieval times. The books were intended for regular use, by lay people, who wished to structure their devotional life. Observing the canonical hours centered upon the recitation, or singing, of a number of psalms, which are accompanied by prayers, specified by the eight hours of the liturgical day.

The core text of a Book of Hours is the Little Office of the Virgin, illustrated by scenes from the Life of the Virgin. This series of hourly prayers were prayed to the Mother of God, who co-mediates and sanctifies the prayers to God. The Penitential Psalms were recited to help one resist temptation of committing any of the Seven Deadly Sins. The prayers in the Office of the Dead were prayed to shorten the time a loved one spent in Purgatory. Supplementary texts were added to celebrate any personal patron, family saint, special circumstances, or a fortuitous event. This standard pattern of daily prayer provided the framework for the artists' efforts. Froehlich, Karlfried, Princeton Theological Seminary [http://theologytoday.ptsem.edu/apr1977/v34-1-bookreview4.htm link] ]

This book contains:

:::A Calendar of feast days, :::The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary,:::The Hours of the Cross, :::The Hours of Eternal Wisdom, :::The Office for the Dead, :::The Seven Penitential Psalms, :::Various Litanies and Prayers, :::A series of seven Offices for each day, with an accompanying Mass; and :::The Suffrages, a Memorial of the Saints.

Text and script

Latin text, Gothic script, black ink, by a single scribe; catchwords and rubricator’s notes in other hands.

Techniques: Illuminated manuscript


These volumes come from a period when Books of Hours were indeed produced for their artistic and decorative effect. The Master chose a wide variety of subject matter for his border illuminations. He decorated his borders with beautiful trompe l’oeil depictions of nature: mussels, fruit, birds, fish, and more. [ [http://www.morganlibrary.org/collections/collections.asp?id=91 Seafood border] ] The Master also depicts man-made beauty, such as jewelry, tiles, coins, and furniture. These border decorations would greatly influence the Master of Mary of Burgundy. The Cleves Master was familiar with the details of humble tasks such as milking a cow, selling wine, and baking bread. In spite of the humble occupations depicted in the miniatures and borders, the luxurious details of wealth and elegance dominate the miniatures, to emphasize that this book was made for an aristocratic client.

The Cleves Master's originality is in the trompe l'oeil effect, and in the still life borders. For example, a border of pretzels and wafers encircles Saint Bartholomew, mussels enclose Saint Ambrose, and a rosary frames the Adoration of the Magi. Meiss observed that these pages are constructed so that the reader views the border through a magnifying glass and the miniature through a telescope. The Hours uses framing as a means to encourage viewers to think of themselves as participants with God in creating sacred time. Williams, Rita. Patterns in the Framing: Patience and The Hours of Catherine of Cleves http://www.publications.villanova.edu/Concept/2005/Patterns.pdf ] The human figure appears flexible and articulate. The Master handles distance by graduated scale and diminishing clarity. The artist's increasing skill in depicting these realistic features can be traced from the start to the finish of this book.

As a whole, the Cleves Master’s decorations concentrate on the great themes of late medieval theology and piety: the Trinity, Christ, the Cross, the Virgin, the Saints, death, salvation, and eternal life. The standard pattern of these devotional prayers provided the framework for the Cleves Master’s efforts. The challenge to the artists of his day was to apply their utmost skill in devising sumptuous pictures, which were fresh and delightful, but fully compliant with religious conventions and the expectations of their noble clients.


In 1964, the Morgan Library produced an 83-page catalogue, "The Book of Hours of Catherine of Cleves", for the Cleves Hours exhibit held at the Library. Both the cloth and paperback editions contained 30 black and white plates, plus 2 color plates, accompanied with commentaries by Dr. John Plummer, Curator of Mediaeval Manuscripts at the Pierpont Morgan Library. Frederick B. Adams, Jr, wrote the Foreword, which incorporated comments by Harry Bober, L. M. J. Delaissé, Millard Meiss, and Erwin Panofsky.

In 1966, the publisher, George Braziller, produced a full color, partial facsimile. All 157 of the miniatures were reproduced in color with gold. Three text pages of prayers were reproduced in color. The 160 facsimile pages were accompanied with notes and commentaries by Dr. John Plummer. This book was issued as a 359-page leather, or leatherette, hardback volume in a slipcase.

A cloth hardback edition was issued in 1975. And, in 1980, the publisher, George Braziller, produced a paperback facsimile of this book.

In 2002, George Braziller published a third edition as a 360-page hardback. All 157 of the miniatures and three text pages were reproduced in color with gold. Dr. Plummer includes a new foreword, along with the 1966 edition Introduction and commentaries, accompanying each facsimile page.


The Hours of the Virgin are those for use of the Augustinian canons of the Windesheim chapter. The Office of the Dead is also that for Windesheim use, which is the same as for Utrecht.

The Hours of Catherine of Cleves is still relevant today as a devotional text. Karlfried Froehlich, Princeton Theological Seminary, makes a statement about the modern usage of books of hours:

"In their imaginative use of traditional iconography the artists put us in touch with a wealth of theological tradition that had developed over centuries and had marked with its symbols the meditative road into the depth dimension. Behind the pictures in these volumes we meet not only the theology of an individual Christian but also a theology expressive of the collective witness of many generations who drew their strength from the contemplation of the realities to which their symbols pointed. There is nothing that could prevent a miniature from the Hours of Catherine of Cleves from becoming an effective help of Christian meditation today."

See also

*Canonical hours
*List of illuminated manuscripts
*History of miniature (illuminated manuscript)


Further reading

* Calkins, Robert G. "Distribution of labor: the illuminators of the Hours of Catherine of Cleves and their Workshop." In "Transactions of the American Philosophical Society"; new ser., v. 69, pt. 5. Philadelphia, American Philosophical Society, 1979. ISBN 0871696959
* Calkins, Robert G. "Illuminated Books of the Middle Ages". Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1983. ISBN 0801493773
* De Hamel, Christopher. "A History of Illuminated Manuscripts". New York: Phaidon Press, 1997. ISBN 0714834521
* Merton, Thomas. "A Book of Hours". Notre Dame, Indiana: Sorin Books, 2007. ISBN 1933495057

External links

* [http://www.medievalist.net/hourstxt/home.htm Hypertext Book of Hours; full texts and translation]
* [http://www.morganlibrary.org/collections/collectionsEnlarge.asp?id=88 Morgan Library website Image]
* [http://www.morganlibrary.org/collections/collections.asp?id=90 Last Judgement image]
* [http://www.usc.edu/dept/comp-lit/tympanum/3/woodruff.html A Note on the Book of Hours of Catherine of Cleves, Peter Woodruff, USC]
* [http://www.chd.dk/cals/utrechtkal.html Utrecht Calendar]
* [http://www.chd.dk/tutor/utrecht.html Utrecht Daily Prayer]

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