This book of hours (prayer book), a manuscript bound in gold and precious stones, is an unparalleled treasure of French precious metalwork. It was presented by King François I to his niece Jeanne d’Albret, who was raised under his guardianship at the French court. Small prayers books were everyday objects, but this one is remarkably elaborate. Its later owners included King Henri IV and Cardinal Mazarin.
King François I’s Book of Hours is a unique vestige of the treasures of the House of Valois, dispersed in their entirety over the centuries. The book became the property of collectors in England in the early 18th century; its acquisition by the Louvre, for a total of around 10 million euros, would bring this Renaissance masterpiece back to France.
Thanks to the exceptional generosity of LVMH Moët Hennessy— Louis Vuitton, half of the required sum has already been obtained. On October 15, the Musée du Louvre launched a major crowdfunding campaign aimed at individuals and companies in the hope of raising 1 million euros before February 15.
The book of hours is presented within the framework of the exhibition François I and Dutch Art (October 18, 2017–January 15, 2018).
This unique masterpiece, listed as a French National Treasure, has been put up for sale by its London owner. In order to add it to the French national collections, the Louvre must raise 8 million pounds (about 10 million euros).
The museum is therefore appealing to public generosity with a new Become a Patron! crowdfunding campaign intended to raise 1 million euros before February 15, 2018.
LVMH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton is actively committed to the success of the campaign; its generous donation of 5 million euros means that half the required sum is already secured. To reach the full amount, the museum is now targeting its fundraising efforts at major donors and the corporate community.
An artwork of great rarity
The collections of museums both in France and abroad have no equivalent of King François I’s Book of Hours. Apart from the Benvenuto Cellini’s salt cellar in Vienna, it is the only piece of precious metalwork directly associated with this king and is, to date, the only known precious French book binding from the reigns of François I and the last Valois kings.
This tiny handwritten prayer book (8.5 x 6.5 cm) is decorated with sixteen full-page painted illustrations and numerous illuminated initials. It can be dated thanks to the date 1532 that appears in its ornamentation.
King François I’s Book of Hours is a masterpiece of precious metalwork from the reign of François I. With its enameled gold binding, embellished with precious stones and two large, intaglio-engraved, oval carnelian plaques, it is also a monument to the jeweler’s art.
With the generous support of LVMH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton