Two Leaves from a Book of Hours:
St. John on Patmos (Gospel Lessons) and
St. Barbara (Suffrages, Memorial to St. Barbara), about 1465
Ink, tempera, and gold on vellum
The Jeanne Miles Blackburn Collection [Cat. nos. 50-51]
The miniature of St. John comes from a cycle of evangelist portraits forming the lessons following the calendar. The Evangelist John is shown seated on the Island of Patmos, to which he was banished by the Roman Emperor Domitian. It was here, as tradition has it, that John composed his Book of Revelation. A common motif is the inclusion of a mischievous devil who attempts to distract the saint from his sacred work by stealing his ink bottle. The second miniature, from the volume's suffrages (short prayers or memorials to particular saints) is dedicated to St. Barbara. A popular saint in medieval Europe, Barbara was a citizen of late Roman Syria martyred at the hands of her own father because of her faith. She was regarded by medieval men and women as a protectress from sudden death.
The Master of Jacques de Luxembourg had a strong sense of visual detail, particularly in architecture, which he typically combined with a flair for narrative. This points to his origin in eastern France or Flanders, though he may have actually worked in Paris.