Close Up: Bourdichon's Boston Hours

Court painter to four successive kings, Jean Bourdichon (French, about 1457 - 1521) was best known for his gilded books and his sophisticated illuminated manuscripts. One such masterpiece is his Book of Hours, known by many as the “Boston Hours,” in the Gardner Museum’s collection. In the summer of 1890, Isabella Stewart Gardner purchased this Christian prayer book filled with beautifully painted images. Isabella took great pride in her library and, in particular, this book, the crown jewel of her collection. It is today the only complete and intact example of this type in the United States and this summer is displayed unbound for the very first time so the public may enjoy the colorful and masterful pages each on their own.

Although little known today, Bourdichon produced a vast variety of work, most of which is lost. But his artistic legacy endures in the devotional books he created for the French nobility. As with other illuminated manuscripts of the period, Bourdichon’s “Boston Hours” tells stories through its illustrations, guiding the reader through the life and death of Jesus Christ as depicted in 13 paintings. The Bourdichon pages are lavish and monumental, and his biblical scenes in architectural frames of columns and arches are as vivid today as they were five centuries ago.

Our collection includes books about Bourdichon and his contemporaries as well as gifts inspired by the contents and themes in Bourdichon's Book of Hours. Be transported from the page and discover the transcendent practice of Renaissance devotion.