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Revealing the Rothschild Prayer Book

Revealing the Rothschild Prayer Book
c. 1505-1510 from the Kerry Stokes Collection

Rothschild exhibition promo
22 May 2015 to 9 August 2015,


Treasures Gallery, Ground floor


No booking required

The Rothschild Prayer Book, an early sixteenth-century book of hours owned for many years by the famous Rothschild family, was produced during the last great flourishing of manuscript illumination. This Renaissance masterpiece includes paintings of unsurpassed beauty and refined execution by some of the most sought-after Flemish illuminators of the early sixteenth century, including Gerard Horenbout and Simon Bening. Among its highlights are splendid paintings of popular saints such as Mary Magdalen, shown with the vase of ointment with which tradition says she anointed Christ.

With 67 full-page miniatures, the prayer book is decorated throughout with illusionistic borders strewn with flowers and insects and biblical and mythical characters. Background landscapes and interior settings are rich in realistic detail.

Acquired for the Kerry Stokes Collection in January 2014, this superb example of Flemish book illumination will be on public display, for the first time in Australia, in the Treasures Gallery. A selection of the National Library’s own medieval and Renaissance treasures will complement the Rothschild Prayer Book.

The display takes visitors on a journey from illuminated manuscripts to a printed leaf from Gutenberg’s Bible, via a tenth-century music fragment and the important fourteenth-century Chertsey Cartulary from the Library’s Clifford Collection. The display also coincides with the success of a major fundraising appeal to digitise, conserve and research the Library’s early manuscript treasures. It is a not-to-be-missed experience for lovers of illuminated manuscripts and rare books.

Image caption: Beginning of the Office of Prime (detail), fol. 109r, in the Rothschild Prayer Book c. 1505–1510, Kerry Stokes Collection, Perth

Exhibition highlights

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Gems of History