King François I’s Book of Hours! It belonged to the art-loving Knight-King, the first Renaissance King of France! It appears in my novels from time to time as François uses it quite often for prayers.
Purchased in the 1530s, François used it every day. It is a stunning masterpiece of the French Renaissance of precious metalwork showcasing the might and pity of the Valois dynasty. It has enameled gold binding, embellished with precious stones and two large, intaglio-engraved, oval carnelian plaques (possibly by Matteo del Nassaro of Verona), which makes it a masterpiece of the jeweler’s art. It was written entirely by hand, with 16 full-page painted illustrations.
It was returned to France only in 2018 when the Musée du Louvre, sponsored by LVMH and other investors, purchased it for 10 million euros. Why did it disappear from France? In the 18th century, an old Englishman got this book (how?!) and kept it in his collection for decades. The French wept (as the Louvre says!) and begged the English government to intervene, helping them to return the national treasure, but to no avail. Its modern London owner put it on sale in 2017, and the Musée du Louvre immediately began the campaign to raise funds to buy the book.
All images are in the public domain.
Text © 2020 Olivia Longueville