Although books of hours were the most common devotional books of the fifteenth century, there were also more varied collections of prayer. This leaf comes from one such prayer book. It shows the hand of the resurrected Christ, whose palm bears the stigmata associated with his crucifixion. Set against a yellow background meant to imitate gold leaf, this inexpensive image was used by readers who looked at the image while contemplating Christ’s death and subsequent resurrection. The text encircling the image translates as, “Whatever has been, or will be, appointed through the right hand of God the omnipotent father shall be blessed.”
This image is one of only two printed works in the exhibition Private Prayer, Public Performance. A woodcut, it was made around 1450, roughly contemporary with Gutenberg’s invention of printing with movable type, which would spell the end of manuscript illumination. This work illustrates that transition perfectly: although the image is printed, the prayer on the other side of the page is handwritten.
This work will be on view in the 2nd floor Ripin Print Gallery through July 31 in the exhibition Private Prayer, Public Performance: Religious Books of the Later Middle Ages and Renaissance.
Friends of Art Fund, 1956.2