These remarkably well preserved books, most of which were known as “hours” were typically used as prayer books.
The pages or “leaves” are surprisingly abundant and have been actively pursued by collectors for centuries. Even today, the leaves are extremely popular for decorating. They remain lovely works of art and are one of the most affordable artifacts that collectors can find from the pre-Renaissance era.
The influence of these books carried on even after their production ceased. The works of the Pre-Raphaelites in the second half of the 1850’s are a direct result of inspiration from these books. When looking at the work of Dante Gabriel Rosetti, one can see the influence that the vivid colors and medieval subjects of the manuscripts had on him. On a more complex level, he also copied their use of a crowded picture plane and spatial relationships along with the luminous colors found in the illustrations of the books.
William Morris is one of the most widely recognizable artists in the history of decorative arts and was himself a collector of Illuminated Manuscripts. His work was greatly influenced by the calligraphy and illustration contained in the books. So much so, that he created his own modern day versions. His work is still popular and his influences can be seen in many forms in the world of decorative arts from wallpaper and textiles to furniture and home accessories.
The Illuminated Manuscripts of the Renaissance are a wonderful example of the importance of art in the daily life of a renaissance aristocrat. Their beauty and influence lives on in the decorative art of the 21st century. They are a testament to the innate need and desire of human beings to decorate and beautify the world around us. When we look back at the rich history of all types of decorative painting, these amazing manuscripts are not to be missed.