The Hours of Catherine of Cleves

An artist whose name has been lost to time painted the gold-studded illuminations around 1440 in a book of prayers for Catherine of Cleves, a Dutch countess. Her court commissioned the volume of hours, or illustrated daily devotions, around the time she separated from her spendthrift husband, Arnold of Egmond, and began a futile 30-year effort to unseat him. Catherine’s illustrator is most famous for weirdly fanciful borders; he surrounded Latin text blocks with bee swarms, devils, birdcages, pearls, pea pods, burst-open mussels and fish eating one another’s tails. (source)


The Hours of Catherine of Cleves is the most important and lavish of all Dutch manuscripts. Commissioned by Catherine of Cleves around 1440 and illustrated by an artist known as the Master of Catherine of Cleves, the work is an illustrated prayer book containing devotions that Catherine would recite throughout the day. (source)

Browse the complete digital version at the Morgan's collection


  1. This is amazing. Some of those images look incredibly modern. I'm reminded of my high school Humanities class (which was English with a side of art and music), in which we studied medieval manuscripts and had to create our own decorated initial. I was very into performing arts and hadn't done anything visual in years, but I found such satisfaction in that project. I loved all the art projects in that class, but my beautiful K was my favorite.

  2. Thank you Kate! I can imagine how satisfying this kind of work is. It's like bringing letters and texts to live. I always loved typography and caligraphy and these illuminations are the most beautiful I've ever seen.


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