Books of hours—custom-made for private devotion in the Christian faith—were a bestseller in medieval Europe. These manuscripts incorporated prayers, hymns, biblical stories, and monthly calendars featuring religious feast days, which were often supplemented by images painted in exquisite detail. Today, books of hours are a testament to the visually rich material culture of the Middle Ages. UMMA was recently gifted a bejeweled double-sided calendar leaf for January. Executed on parchment, the page highlights the material opulence and artistry involved in manuscript illumination. Accompanying the calendar are painted images or miniatures of the labor and characteristic activity of the month, and Aquarius, the zodiac sign for January, embodied by a man collecting water from a stream. The folio’s luminous, gilded surface, accentuated by the use of bright colors, was meant to transport the medieval viewer into a state of spiritual transcendence.
This work was recently gifted to UMMA by Mrs. Carrol Robertsen.