Holy Expensive: Prayer book attracts angel investors

While the wisdom of the Almighty may be freely available to all those willing supplicants who earnestly seek it out, the prices of religious manuscripts and prayer books from times Medieval and Renaissance are really rather sinful – a truth that was self-evident at a recent Sotheby’s London auction.

With the sale dedicated to such highly sought-out prayer books, as well as to antique Continental and Russian religious tracts, the lot most longed-after was the Breviary of Marie, a Roman Catholic prayer book dating back to around 1360. Once the property of Marie of France, the Duchess of Bar (1344-1404), this exquisitely illustrated volume went for a truly divine US$790,000. Commissioned by Marie’s father, King John II of France, prior to Marie’s marriage to a French nobleman, the finished volume came complete with Italian miniatures, heraldic shields, illuminated borders and the Duchess’ own coat of arms.

Prayer Book

The value of the prayer book was further enhanced by the fact its contents were written in Latin in the style of Jean Pucelle, one of the most renowned Parisian illuminators of the 14th century, while also featuring several full-page depictions of the Duchess at prayer.