(b. ca. 1420, Tours, d. ca. 1480, Tours)

Book of Hours of Étienne Chevalier

Manuscript (Additional Ms. 37421), 201 x 148 mm
British Library, London

This manuscript was created for Étienne Chevalier (c. 1410-1474, secretary and finance minister to King Charles VII of France (reigned 1422-1461). He was one of those bourgeois court officials who because of their great capabilities and loyalty, had risen in rank and influence in Paris and had as a result acquired considerable wealth. The creator of the miniatures in his Book of Hours was Jean Fouquet, with whom French 15th-century painting attained its undisputed zenith.

Originally this Book of Hours was a sumptuous manuscript rivaling the most beautiful manuscripts of the 15th century. Yet, it has suffered a sad fate. In the 18th century it was divided up into sections, with the loss of all the text pages except two. The illuminated pages were scattered in all directions in the 19th century. From the surviving 47 illuminated folios 40 are kept in the Musée Condé, Chantilly, 2 in the Musée du Louvre, Paris, 1 each in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, British Library, London, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Wildentein Foundation, London, and a private collection.

Fouquet illustrates the seven penitential psalms with a depiction of David at prayer. He shows the Old Testament king and psalmist on the battlefield in mediaeval armour, kneeling before a magnificent landscape with two corpses in the foreground.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.