Title: ‘Office of the Dead,’ in Horae (Book of Hours), page 119
Place: Published in Naples by Mathias Moravus
Date: 1478
Medium & technique: Hand-painted illumination on parchment
Dimensions: 129 x 83 mm
Themes: Bodies – Inside & Outside / Monstrous – Marvellous
Collection: The John Rylands Library, (c) The University of Manchester

The page is from a book of hours in Latin printed on parchment. The opening page of the Office of the Dead has been hand-painted with a large initial containing a half-length skeleton and, alongside the same five lines of text, a human-hybrid standing in the floriated border. Strikingly the skeleton and the curious brown biped in the border stare across to the outer edge of the page, whilst the empty hands of the border figure are raised in surprise or surrender in a sad echo of the outstretched hands of the skeleton grasping the tools of his grim trade. Read more about this object.

Anne Kirkham, University of Manchester

Further Reading:

Michael Camille, Image on the Edge. The Margins of Medieval Art (London: Reaktion, 1992).

Lucy Freeman Sandler, Studies in Manuscript Illumination, 1200-1400 (London: Pindar Press, 2008).