27 Oct 2011

The Black Hours - Online Exhibition of a rare black manuscript

An extraordinary online exhibition of a Book of Hours named The Black Hours, was given this name becase the manuscripts are written and illuminated on vellum that is stained or painted black. The anonymous painter of the Black Hours is an artist whose style depended mainly upon that of Willem Vrelant, one of the dominant illuminators working in Bruges from the late 1450s until his death in 1481. The website describes it as follows:

"The text is written in silver and gold, with gilt initials and line endings composed of chartreuse panels enlivened with yellow filigree. Gold foliage on a monochromatic blue background makes up the borders. The miniatures are executed in a restricted palette of blue, old rose, and light flesh tones, with dashes of green, gray, and white. The solid black background is utilized to great advantage, especially by means of gold highlighting."
Unfortunately the very thing which makes the manuscript so unusual is difficult to preserve:

"The black of its vellum—the very thing that makes the codex so striking—is also the cause of some serious flaking. The carbon used in the black renders the surface of the vellum smooth and shiny—a handsome but less than ideal supporting surface for some of the pigments. The Morgan's Black Hours is awaiting conservation treatment. In the meantime, we are pleased to offer a virtual facsimile."

Manucript - http://www.themorgan.org/collections/works/BlackHours/manuscript.asp

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