Mary's Mantle

University of Oregon Special Collections and University Archives. For a digitization of the entire book, see:

Officium Beatae Mariae Virginis, Pii V. Pont. Max. iussu editum. Catholic Church. Antuerpiae, ex Officna Plantiniana, apud Ioannem Moretum, 1609, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, Eugene, Oregon.

BX2080.A2 1609

This exceptionally grandiose book of hours was designed to be read and sold throughout Europe. Containing hand-painted pictures throughout filled with religious scenes, this book shows the time spent creating this masterpiece. A typical palette of the period included red madder lake, buckthorn yellow, copper green, and copper blue. This volume likely employs these as well as more expensive pigments, including gold and silver. The Virgin Mary, seen here, demonstrates  the importance of red, both for the dramatic effect as well as for its symbolic nature. The eye is drawn to Mary. Her eyes looking downward represent her humility and tenderness. Mary and Jesus are often shown in red and blue, and when Mary wears red underneath and a blue cloak, Jesus wears the reverse. According to traditional iconography, blue signifies humanity and red signifies divinity and blood shed by Jesus to redeem people from sin. Red madder lake likely was the dye used in coloring Mary’s dress. Published by Jan Moretus and printed in red and black ink, this is a Plantin Press work of art. It took over a day to create one pound of vermilion into color useable for the press, so the copious use of red ink shows how luxurious this work is. Jan Moretus, Plantin’s successor, created this second edition of the Officium Beatae Maria Virginis after finding success in his 1600/1601 edition created for Archduke Albert of the Netherlands. 

Brooke Sikora