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Miniature Masterpiece: The Coëtivy Hours 

9 March - 2 September 2018


The Coëtivy Hours is a masterpiece of fifteenth-century illumination. It was produced in Paris (1443-1445) for Prigent de Coëtivy, bibliophile and Admiral of France, to mark the occasion of his marriage to Marie de Rais. Made from parchment, the manuscript comprises 364 folios, each illuminated with decorative borders. In addition, it includes 148 three-quarter page miniatures painted in demi-grisaille.  Using this technique, the figures are for the most part rendered in a limited palette of white with occasional hints of colours and gold.
 
Books of Hours are a collection of prayers intended for private use, and many were illuminated. Although described as the medieval ‘best seller’ due to the sheer number of surviving examples, their quality varies drastically. The patron dictated the number of miniatures and the level of decoration, while the style and palette were determined by the abilities of the workshop and availability of materials; no two books were identical.
 
Edith Beatty acquired the Coëtivy Hours in 1919 as an anniversary gift for her husband. Her inscription on the fly-leaf reads: ‘To A. Chester Beatty, from his loving wife, Edith’. At Beatty’s request, all but four of the miniatures were removed from the manuscript. For Beatty this had one clear purpose: ‘why shouldn’t people who are interested … look at them as closely as they want and study them properly?’
 
The Coëtivy Hours is a master work on a miniature scale. The exquisite artistry of the Parisian illuminators draws the viewer into each lavishly illuminated page. This exhibition and accompanying catalogue invite the visitor to indulge in the richness of this miniature masterpiece.