provenance: Alfonso I d’Este (d. 1534); Francis V of Austria-Este, (1846-1875); Charles I, emperor of Austria (1916-1922); Acquired by Calouste Gulbenkian from J. Bourdariat, Paris, on May 2, 1924.
description: The emblems with the heraldic devices and titles ofAfonso I d’Este (1476-1534), the third Duke of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio, appear in the illuminated margins that frame the texts in this book of hours, confirming that this leading figure from the Italian Renaissance was its owner.
Each of the offices in this prayer-book starts with a folio that has a historiated initial letter and exuberantly decorated margins. The backgrounds, gilded or black with gold stippling, are decorated with pearls, cameos and precious stones set among flowers, fruit and animals, as well as groups of strange grotesques.
Folio 94r, which introduces the Office of the Dead, has a large initial letter with the figure of Death, depicted as a skeleton in female attire, looking in a mirror that reflects the image of Man's inescapable fate.
Acquired in 1924 by Calouste Gulbenkian, this codex still has nineteen superbly illuminated pages from its original decoration, the work of Matteo da Milano. The fourteen full-page miniatures that originally decorated the work were removed at some unknown date and purchased around 1884 by Bishop Strossmayer. They now belong to the Strossmayerova Gallery, Zagreb.