Volumes Formerly Owned by French Kings and Queens Highlight Next Spotlight Exhibition

Monday, February 28, 2011


February 28, 2011


Contact: Kelly McGrath

(312) 255-3676





 The Newberry in March will unveil Illuminated Manuscripts and Printed Books: French Renaissance Gems of the Newberry, a Spotlight exhibition of 20 beautifully illuminated manuscripts and early printed books dating to fifteenth- and sixteenth-century France featuring four volumes formerly belonging to French kings and queens, and one to the Duke of Burgundy. Most of the materials have never before been publicly displayed, and several are relatively recent Newberry acquisitions.

Spanning the period 1450 to 1550, the exhibition encompasses two renaissances: the French Renaissance, which was the flowering of Gothic art in the late fifteenth century; and the later reception into France of the Italian Renaissance, characterized by a rebirth of classical art and literature.

 “We’re delighted to present this exhibition on the French Renaissance, which is both visually stunning and historically significant,” Newberry President David Spadafora said. “Most of these volumes have never been seen by the general public, and we are grateful to the supporters of this exhibition for helping us bring these important materials to the attention of our visitors.”

 Illuminated Manuscripts and Printed Books: French Renaissance Gems of the Newberry will be on display Wednesday, March 23, through May 28, in the Newberry’s R.R. Donnelley Exhibition Gallery, located on the library’s main floor. This free exhibition will be open from 8:15 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and from 8:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays. The library is closed Sundays.

The four volumes formerly belonging to French monarchs are:

Prayer Book of Anne of Brittany

This personal prayer book of Anne of Brittany (1477-1514) appears to be a gift from her husband, Louis XII (reigned 1498-1515), commissioned by him in Florence. The illuminations feature a central historiated initial that depicts King David and two roundels that display the Annunciation. Anne in 1499 was pregnant with her first child by Louis, and this volume contains a special prayer to be recited during childbirth. The coat of arms on this page is not Anne’s; it was repainted in the mid-sixteenth century.

 Pocket Book of Hours and Breviary

Copy of Louis XI and Charlotte of Savoy

This volume was made for the private devotions of Louis XI (reigned 1461-1483) and his wife, Charlotte of Savoy (1441-1483), for use in the royal chapel of Saint Victor, a Parisian abbey on the left bank of the Seine. The illuminations are in the style of Jacques Besançon. The left folio depicts the Mass of the Dead in the presence of the abbot and canons of Saint Victor, and the right folio introduces the Short Hours of the Virgin.

 Pope Pius II, Epistola ad Mahumetem

Copy of Louis XI

Pope Pius II (Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, 1405-1464) composed this tract in 1461 as part of a failed effort to lead a crusade to convert Muslims and to “liberate the Holy Land.” This, the king’s copy, was transcribed soon thereafter in emulation of an Italian model. On June 8, 1470, in the castle of Amboise, Louis XI presented this volume to his confessor and counselor, Jean Boucort, Bishop of Avranches (1453-1484).

 Ludovico Ariosto, Orlando furioso

This illuminated printed volume was originally dedicated to Henry II (reigned 1547-1559) when he was Dauphin. It was later fitted with an inserted leaf for Henry’s son, Francis II (reigned 1559-1560), when he was Dauphin. Ariosto’s Italian text, first printed in 1516, recounts the heroic adventures of Orlando, a lieutenant of Charlemagne during his wars against the Saracens, However, Francis’s reign lasted less than two years; he died in 1560 at the age of 16, leaving his wife, Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587), a widow.

 Other exhibition highlights include objects related to devotion, such as the exquisite Jay Gould Hours; the vibrantly illuminated Speculum of Human Salvation, formerly in the collection of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy; and two illustrated, roll chronicles that trace the lineage of the French monarchy.

Serving the public since 1887, the Newberry is a world-renowned independent research library and community of learning that is home to collections spanning six centuries.

This exhibition is being held in conjunction with the Art Institute of Chicago’s Kings, Queens, and Courtiers: Art in Early Renaissance France, and is possible because of the generous support of the Altman Family Foundation, Sandra Hindman, D. Carroll Joynes, Janis Wellin Notz, and the Rhoades Foundation.

For more information, please visit the Newberry at www.newberry.org