13 May 2019

Rothschild Prayer Book at National Library

| Alex Tricolas

Virgin and Child on a crescent moon and The seven joys of the Virgin, fols 197v–198r in the Rothschild Prayer Book c. 1505–1510 Kerry Stokes Collection, Perth

The Rothschild Prayer Book, an early sixteenth-century Book of Hours owned for many years by the famous Rothschild family, was produced during the last great flourishing of manuscript illumination.

The Renaissance masterpiece includes paintings of unsurpassed beauty and refined execution by some of the most sought-after Flemish illuminators of the early sixteenth century, including Gerard Horenbout and Simon Bening. Among its highlights are splendid paintings of popular saints such as Mary Magdalene, shown with the vase of ointment with which tradition says she anointed Christ.

Featuring 67 full-page miniatures, the prayer book is further decorated throughout with borders of flowers, insects and biblical and mythical characters. Background landscapes and interior settings are rich in realistic detail.

Acquired for the Kerry Stokes Collection in January 2014, this superb example of Flemish book illumination will be on display for the first time ever in Australia in the National Library of Australia’s Treasures Gallery. A selection of the National Library’s own medieval and Renaissance treasures will complement the Rothschild Prayer Book.

The display takes visitors on a journey from the world of illuminated manuscripts to early printed works by Gutenberg and Dürer. Highlights include a tenth-century fragment— the oldest manuscript in the Library’s collection, Books of Hours and the important fourteenth-century Chertsey Cartulary. It coincides with and celebrates the success of a major fundraising appeal to digitise, conserve and research the Library’s early manuscript treasures. It is a not-to-be-missed experience for lovers of illuminated manuscripts and rare books.

Revealing the Rothschild Prayer Book c. 1505–1510 from the Kerry Stokes Collection
Showing at The National Library
22 May–9 August 2015 Daily, 10 am–5 pm
Free Exhibition

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