The Hours of Jeanne d'Evreux by Jean Pucelle
Analysis of Gothic illuminated prayer book

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The Hours of Jeanne d'Evreux
(detail) By Jean Pucelle.
A masterpiece of French
medieval painting of the
14th century.

The Hours of Jeanne d'Evreux (1324-28)


Analysis and Interpretation
Medieval Illuminated Texts


Name: "The Hours of Jeanne d'Evreux"
Date: 1324-28
Artist: Jean Pucelle (1290-1334)
Medium: Grisaille and tempera on vellum
Genre: Religious art
Movement: Gothic
Location: The Cloisters, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

For analysis and explanation of other important pictures from the Renaissance, see: Famous Paintings Analyzed (1250-1800).

For commentary on works
of medieval art by painters
like Jean Pucelle, see
our educational articles:
Art Evaluation and
How to Appreciate Paintings.

Analysis of the Hours of Jeanne d'Evreux

The "Hours of Jeanne d'Evreux" is a richly illuminated 'book of hours' (a personal prayer book containing devotional texts and prayers for use at specific times of the day - hence the name) which was created for the French Queen, Jeanne d'Evreux, by Jean Pucelle, one of the leading miniaturists of the day. A masterpiece of early French painting, it contains 25 full-page paintings of scenes from the Infancy and Passion of Christ, as well as the life of Saint Louis. Created during the era of pre-Renaissance painting, The "Hours of Jeanne d'Evreux" is seen as Pucelle's greatest work and one of the greatest Gothic illuminated manuscripts of the 14th century, even outranking Pucelle's other treasure, the Belleville Breviary (1323-6, Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris). On the Queen's death in 1371, the prayer book was left to King Charles V, who bequeathed it to his brother Jean, Duke of Berry, whose collection also included the fabulous Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (1413, Musee Conde, Chantilly), illustrated by the Limbourg Brothers (all died 1416).




The prayer book is very small - less than 4 inches by 3 inches - which places a premium on the drawing skill of the limner involved. The vellum used is paper thin and virtually transparent, while the text is composed in a very fine hand. The figure painting is done in tempera and grisaille (tones of grey) which imparts a surprisingly sculptural quality, and the images are enriched with accents of red and blue, along with touches of yellow, orange, pink, lilac, and turquoise. The illustration includes architectural elements of the Gothic style to be found in Gothic cathedrals. For instance, in the folios depicting "Christ Carrying the Cross" and the "Annunciation to the Shepherds", the painted figures are enclosed within a space that serves as a frame but looks like a Gothic cathedral - or at least boasts elements of Gothic architecture, including gargoyles and quatrefoils. At the same time, a number of motifs found in Pucelle's depiction of the Passion cycle derive from the tympanum of the central portal at Strasbourg Cathedral. Meanwhile, in the margins of the prayer book, there are almost 700 drolleries and other pictures of priests, beggars, street dancers and musicians that populated the streets of medieval Paris, as well as rabbits, dogs, apes, and a variety of hybrid and fantasy creatures.

Based on an analysis of the imagery of the Belleville Breviary (1323-6), the Hours of Jeanne d'Evreux (1324-8) and the Billyng Bible (1327), it is clear that Pucelle had a good working knowledge of Proto-Renaissance art in Italy. This raises the possibility that he may have been Italian, or else that he visited Italy sometime during the 1310s or early 1320s. At any rate his art shows connections with works of the Sienese School of painting - such as the Maesta Altarpiece (1308-11) by Duccio di Buoninsegna (c.1255-1319) and the Annunciation with St. Margaret and St. Ansanus (1333) by Simone Martini (1284-1344) - as well as the Scrovegni Chapel frescoes by the Florentine Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337). Indeed, Pucelle appears to be the sole source of Italian art in French miniature painting of the 14th century - one reason why (after his death) illuminated manuscripts in France came to be dominated by the idiom of International Gothic art, rather than the ideas of the Florentine Renaissance.

Other Medieval Illuminated Texts

Christ's Monogram Page (Chi/Rho) (Book of Kells) (800)
Celtic-style abstract art.

Medieval Manuscript Illumination (c.1000-1500)
From the Romanesque to the Late Gothic.

Making of Illuminated Manuscripts
Materials and methods.


• For an analysis of other Gothic illuminated manuscripts, see: Homepage.

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