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Priest Celebrating a Mass (Leaf from the Tarleton Hours)


Artwork Details

Priest Celebrating a Mass (Leaf from the Tarleton Hours)
circa 1430
ink, tempera and gold on thin parchment
5 1/2 in x 4 3/16 in (13.97 cm x 10.64 cm);5 1/2 in x 4 3/16 in (13.97 cm x 10.64 cm)
Museum Purchase

On Display

Not currently on display


The book of hours from which this leaf came takes its name from the family who owned it from 1784 until 1951. The miniature, instead of the usual illustration for the Hour of Sext (the Adoration of the Magi), depicts a priest celebrating a Mass in a private chapel for a noblewoman, probably the owner of the manuscript. The celebrant is shown elevating the host (Eucharistic bread) before an altar, on which stands an altarpiece depicting Christ in the tomb with an angel. The role of books in religious worship and private devotion is illustrated by the opened codices on the altar and before the kneeling lady.
Gallery Rotation Fall 2010
Unknown Artist
France, 1400–1500
Priest Celebrating a Mass from the Tarleton Hours
circa 1430
Ink, tempera, and gold on parchment
Museum purchase, 1968/2.43
This brilliant page, resplendent with gold and vivid colors, comes from a popular type of medieval prayer book known as a Book of Hours. The opening words of a set of prayers appear below an illumination representing a wealthy woman in elaborate dress kneeling beneath a red canopy set within a church. A book lies open before her, but she looks ahead with hands clasped toward a priest raising a Eucharistic wafer while performing the Mass at an altar. Although her identity is unknown, this woman was undoubtedly the original owner of the book, who perhaps found in the illustration an idealized reflection of her pious practices.

Subject Matter:

This minature painting is a leaf illustration from the Tarleton Hours, a devotional prayer book created in France, during the early 16th century. A Book of Hours such as this would contain readings, prayers, psalms, as well as church liturgy for private devotion. This scene shows a priest celebrating mass as an attendant and a woman, possibly a donor, kneel near him. It is surrounded by intricate and colorful designs that create rich decorative patterns.

Physical Description:

This page of an illuminated manuscript on thin parchment is vertically oriented. Centered in the upper two-thirds of the page is a window-shaped scene of a priest celebrating mass. The priest, with red and white robes and a tonsure, holds up a communion wafer at an altar that has a bible and a communion goblet on it and an image of two figures with halos behind them. The altar and the priest’s robes are trimmed with gold leaf. Behind the priest are two kneeling figures, a man and a woman. They are in the interior of a gothic church, with stone vaulting above them. Below the scene are four lines of calligraphy with the first letter, a ‘D’, highly decorated. Decorative detailing surrounds the text and the scene. The left side consists of an ivy-like plant growing out of the "D", and the bottom and right sides have different foliate-derived design depicted in ink, tempera and gold.

Usage Rights:

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