Christ Comforting his Mother from a French Book of Hours


Genre: , ,

“Obsecro te” Prayer from a Book of Hours with a marginal vignette of Christ and the Virgin. Northern France, ca. 1480: 173 mm x 115 mm (justification, 114 mm x 61 mm). Single column, 20 lines. Ruled in diluted red ink. The number “20” in modern pencil on the verso, likely to be a foliation. Decoration: two figures on bright gold grounds in the lefthand margin of the verso standing on a greensward with flowering vine-stems shooting up behind. The blue figure in prayer is obviously the Virgin, as she bears bright blue robes. The figure in red standing behind her is more difficult to identify, but seems to be Christ who is supporting his mother in her devotions. The figure might also be an angel or perhaps even St. John, given the blonde hair.  The leaf also bears a single two-line initial in liquid gold on pale pink grounds.

The subject of Christ comforting the Virgin in her devotions is highly unusual and inverts the expected scene in which the Virgin holds Christ as an infant. The “Obsecro te” prayer calls the Virgin a source of consolation, but for her the comfort comes from her son.

Texts: end of the Gospel lesson from Mark’s Gospel from Mc 16.14 to the end of the chapter, followed by the opening of the “Obsecro te” prayer. Provenance: Collection of Alexander E. Vida of Grosse Pointe Farms, MI (d. 2018) and by descent. Condition: very good; while the digital scan shows mat burn, this is not visible to the naked eye.


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