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Radiant miniatures

In 1898, in purchasing a beautifully illustrated prayer book, Fritz Mayer van den Bergh spent the highest sum he ever paid out: 35,500 francs, a fortune at the time. He knew what he was doing: this is an absolute masterpiece. It is now named after him.

1510. The printing press has existed for a while, but the art of the miniature is still going through a final flowering in the Flemish cities of Bruges and Ghent. International orders are pouring in: this Latin prayer book, a breviary, exemplifies this. It may have been made for the Portuguese king Manuel I, as it contains instructions for its use in Portuguese.



Luckily for us, the breviary was barely touched. This is remarkable, because such prayer books were normally for daily use. Because it was so little used, it is in exceptionally good condition today. The prayer book includes 36 full-page miniatures. In addition, there are numerous decorated borders, small scenes and letters in miniature form. Some of the most important miniaturists from the late 15th and early 16th century worked on it – as is evident from its high quality.


Razor sharp

In the breviary, the twelve months are depicted in twelve miniatures. These show the activities on the land and the feast days for each month. They are razor-sharp and realistic. The border decorations with their colourful flowers and insects are also superbly painted. In the Middle Ages flowers, plants and animals often had a symbolic meaning.



  • The Maximilian Master, the Master of James IV of Scotland, Gerard Horenbaut and Gerard David
  • Mayer van den Bergh Breviary, ca. 1510-1515
  • Parchment, 706 folios, 224 x 160 mm