Hours of Jeanne d'Evreux
New York, The Met Cloisters, 54.1.2
This precious book of hours was possibly a gift for Jeanne d’Evreux, Queen of France, to celebrate her marriage to King Charles IV. The delicate monochromatic gray or ‘grisaille’ decorations by the artist Jean Pucelle seem uniquely adapted to the intimate scale of the manuscript, measuring barely four inches in height.
In the opening page of the central cycle of prayers to the Virgin Mary, Jeanne herself appears inside the first initial, holding up a book-within-the-book as if to perpetuate her act of prayer even when the pages are closed. Above her head the angel Gabriel announces the miraculous pregnancy of Mary, but down below courtly figures engage in a mischievous game. This playfulness extends across the book, as marginal figures emerge from the text in exaggerated pantomimes of movement on every page, no two exactly alike. Perhaps these droll scenes helped keep the queen’s attention from wandering as she performed her daily prayers.
To the best of our knowledge, the manuscript has yet to be fully digitized and made available online; however, many images are available at the website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.