Illuminated: A 15th-Century Nativity Scene

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The Nativity appears in Très riches heures, a 15th-century book of hours created for a French prince, John, Duke of Berry. The lavish manuscript was an extravagant undertaking, painstakingly produced with expensive pigments and gold.

Thanks to the generosity of Bronx dermatologist James Leach, MD, a fine art facsimile of this medieval prayer book—one of the most famous illuminated manuscripts of the 15th century—is housed in Special Collections at Fordham’s Walsh Family Library. It is one of 300 facsimiles, prayer missals, and other objects donated to Fordham by Leach for the benefit of art history students and medieval studies scholars.

The image accompanies the prayer for the office of Prime, the third prayer reading of the day. The Virgin kneels before her son, who lies on a bed of straw, surrounded by angels. God the Father appears at the top of the image, in the semicircular lobe at the top of the frame. He is surrounded by flaming seraphim.

The text reads:

Deus in adiutorium meum intende

Domine ad adiuvandum me festina

Gloria Patri, et Filio: et Spiritui sancto

Translation:

Incline unto my aid O God.

O Lord make haste to help me.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son: and to the Holy Ghost.

The prayer continues on the following page.

Read more about Fordham’s collection of fine art facsimiles:

Bronx Doctor Donates Medieval Manuscript Facsimiles to Fordham

 

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