Frank Trujillo: A study of the working methods of the master of Catherine of Cleves

The Hours of Catherine of Cleves is a lavishly illuminated book of hours in the collection of The Morgan Library & Museum in New York City. It was originally created circa 1440 for Catherine of Cleves, Duchess of Guelders. The unknown artist who designed and painted the miniatures in the volume is known as the Master of Catherine of Cleves. At some point during the 19th century, the original, single volume was ingeniously split into two separate volumes. The Morgan Library & Museum purchased both volumes in the latter half of the 20th century and, until recently, kept them in their separated state.

In the fall of 2007, the two volumes of the Hours of Catherine of Cleves were disbound in preparation for exhibitions in the Netherlands and in New York. The opportunity to treat each manuscript leaf and re-bind the volumes in their original order was a determining factor in the decision to disbind the volumes. The treatment of the parchment textblock and 150 miniatures provided insight into the exquisite skill required to create such a masterpiece of medieval art, and raised questions about past restoration. Following a summary of the general working methods used to conserve the manuscript and observations on the nature of the original binding, this paper will discuss the artist's use of blue pigments throughout the manuscript. Scientific and physical analyses of the blue pigments used by the artist indicate the predominant use of azurite. However, the sporadic presence of a non-copper-based blue pigment (possibly ultramarine) in some leaves raises the question of whether another, later, hand may have contributed to the manuscript. Additionally, the Van Alfen Hours, also by the Master of Catherine of Cleves, at the Walters Art Museum will be examined to gain a deeper understanding of the artist's palette.