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The Grimani Breviary

The greatest work in the history of Flemish manuscript illumination

The will of the Cardinal Grimani (October 1520)

Quod Breviarium, tanquam rem nobilissimam et pulcherrimam,


1
ostendere debeat personis honorificis, quandocunque oportunum fuerit

- Being a noble and beautiful object, the Breviary has to be shown only to persons of extraordinary standing and only in exceptional circumstances

The Grimani Breviary is the most elaborate and arguably the


greatest work in the history of Flemish manuscript illumination.
Purchased by Cardinal Domenico Grimani by 1520 for the
enormous sum of five hundred ducats, it brought together the
leading illuminators of the time, including the Master of James
IV of Scotland (probably Gerard Horenbout), Alexander
Bening (the Master of the First Prayer Book of Maximilian),
the Master of the David Scenes in the Grimani Breviary,
Simon Bening and Gerard David. More important, each
of these artists created for this manuscript some of his most
exquisite and original miniatures. Thomas Kren*
This is the way in which Thomas Kren of Getty Museums has
accurately described what is certainly the most important and
yet least researched Flemish illuminated manuscript to ever be
produced. Despite the tremendous quality and stunning detail of
the manuscript, it remains a mystery to many as scholars have not
been allowed to view and study the spectacular achievements in
painting that characterize this masterpiece.

A Monumental and Unrivaled Witness of the Splendor of Flemish Art


Totaling an entirety of 1,662 pages, the Grimani Breviary is considered to be a monumental witness to the splendor of Flemish
art produced during the Renaissance. It truly illuminates this important period of history. Perhaps one of the most extraordinary
features of this manuscript is the choice of motifs, which alternate between religious and lay themes. This manuscript, which
contains 110 wonderful miniatures, was intended not only for use in the Church, but also in the private home as well.

Throughout the Middle Ages, the breviary was considered to be one of the most important manuscripts
that could be owned. Such illuminated manuscripts contained daily devotions and were painstakingly
and lovingly crafted. As such, they were commissioned by only the most powerful and wealthiest
families and individuals. Perhaps one of the greatest delights of the Grimani Breviary is the
astonishing variety and range it displays. Rich in detail, the Grimani Breviary is a complete joy to
the scholar who yearns to understand more about this important time period in the Renaissance.

The Calendar and the Trs Riches Heures du Duc de Berry


The full-page illuminations of the Breviary present full-color scenes of seasonal landscapes and rustic life, inviting the viewer to witness
daily activities throughout the seasons. Featuring scenes that include feasts, hunting parties and peasants and shepherds as they work in
the field, the Grimani Breviary offers an intimate look into everyday life of the wealthy and powerful Flemish bourgeoisie.

The Grimani Breviary represents a pinnacle in the achievement of the Master of James IV of Scotland, whose miniatures are among the
easiest to distinguish as a group [] The Master of James IV did not just copy from the hundred-year old calendar illuminations by the
Limbourg brothers in the Trs Riches Heures [] but transformed their courtly and refined art into something
more vigorous, full-blooded, and earthy. *

The Binding
A Masterpiece in its Own Right
The original
volume of
the Grimani
Breviary is in
crimson velvet
and elaborately
adorned with
silver-gilt
covers, framed
by a relief
border that is
embellished
with a running
vine stem and
four roundels.
The inner frame
of each cover features
additional corner roundels
and a large central portrait
medallion. The front cover
presents a portrait of Cardinal
Domenico Grimani while the back
cover features a portrait of Doge
Antonio Grimani.

The Need for a More Systematic Study: the first full high-quality facsimile
[...] The two-day examination of the manuscript by Maryan W. Ainsworth and Thomas Kren proved woefully
inadequate to the task of sorting out all of the stylistic and technical issues that the book raises. Nevertheless, the
visit underscored the need for a more systematic study of the breviarys illuminations. [...] *

While the original Grimani Breviary is safely locked away in the


Biblioteca Marciana in Venice, where even scholars are not allowed
to routinely study it, your institution now has the rare and unique
opportunity to peruse and study the sheer wonder and magnitude
of this masterpiece at leisure. Filled with brilliant full-color
images of daily life and prayers during the early 16th century, this
manuscript is a labor of love and is an essential for anyone who is
interested in learning more about Flemish illumination.
Published by Salerno Editrice (Rome) with the high patronage of the
President of the Italian Republic, this extraordinary facsimile edition
is of only the highest quality and is a loving reproduction of the
original Breviary. All of the magnificent details of the original have
been faithfully reproduced with the goal of providing a unique
and rare opportunity for studying and researching this one of
a kind piece of art. Hand-made, the binding has been carefully
crafted using only the finest book-binding techniques.
Your reproduction of this spectacular masterpiece will be
delivered in a plexiglass and wood display case to protect your
valuable treasure from dust. At the same time, you will be able to
proudly display it in your institution. A brief guide with a selected
bibliography will also be included to ensure that you are able to
take full advantage of this rare opportunity to study and expand
your knowledge of Flemish art. This faithful reproduction is truly
a must-have for all curators, professors, scholars and librarians.

De rebus coelestibus

A complete and faithful reproduction of the codex Ms. Lat. I, 99 - Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Venice (Italy)
universally known as Grimani Breviary (Breviario Grimani).

Dalla c. 4v alla c. 12r il codice presenta 15 tavole interamente miniate di alto valore pittorico. Le miniature, climax estetico e tematico del
codice, esemplificano su due pagine affiancate gli effetti che, nelle varie sfere dinfluenza a loro sottoposte, i pianeti hanno sulla vita degli
uomini. Nelle pagine di sinistra domina la raffigurazione antropomorfica del pianeta (Saturno, Giove, Marte, Sole, Venere, Mercurio e
Illuminated
manuscript
parchment,
produced
in Ghent
and lastro
Brugesesercita
(ca. 1515-20)
Luna),fiancato dalle proprie
case, ovvero
i segni on
delle
costellazioni
zodiacali
sulle quali
la sua influenza in maniera pi
by
the
most
relevant
artists
of
the
area.
marcata; la didascalia poetica, nonch la scena di vita quotidiana sottostanti esemplificano il carattere di questo influsso, ancor meglio illustrato nelle sette miniature di destra, a tutta pagina.

832 folios (1662 pages); 28 x 19.5 cm (11.02 x 7.68 in).

The first faithful and complete


facsimile of the Grimani Breviary

Limited edition of 750 copies.

Plexiglass and wood display.

Short Guide (English and Italian).

All photos in this article are of the facsimile edition.


Texts followed by the * symbol are quoted from: Illuminating the Renaissance:
The Triumph of Flemish Manuscript Painting in Europe, by Thomas Kren and Scot
McKendrick. With contributions of Maryan W. Ainsworth, Mari-Tere Alvarez, Brigitte
Dekeyzer, Richard Gay, Elizabeth Morrison, Catherine Reynold. Getty Publications, 2003.
Some texts are quoted from "Breviario Grimani" - Nota di Commentario all'edizione in
facsimile. Salerno Editrice - Roma, 2009.

Codices Illustres

A Resource for Libraries and Institutions


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