Leaf from a Book of Hours
7 1/4 x 5 1/2 in. (18.4 x 13.9 cm)
Medium and Support:
Ink, gouache, gold on vellum
Gift of Mrs. James Sibley Watson
Location: Not currently on view
Psalm 51:15 [or Vulgate 50:17]: Domine labia mea aperies et os meum adnuntiabit laudem tuam (O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall show forth thy praise).
Books of Hours are Christian prayer books that, beginning in the 1200s, were used in the private devotional practices of the laity. They had several components, including a calendar, the four Gospel Lessons, the Hours of the Virgin, the Hours of the Cross and Holy Spirit, special prayers to the Virgin and saints, and the Office of the Dead. Some Books of Hours were special commissions, created by artists attached to royal courts; others were standardized “stock” that were ordered and then personalized for individual patrons.
This leaf is the first page of the Hours of the Cross, which traditionally opens with an illuminated initial letter, an illustration of the Crucifixion, and the accompanying prayer: “Lord, open Thou my lips and my mouth shall show forth Thy Praise.”
[Label text from It Came From the Vault exhibition, 2013]