Resplendent Illuminations: a new exhibition at the Fine Arts Museum


Resplendent Illuminations – Religion is one of those issues on which people may have many and frequently conflicting views. There is one thing, however, on which people of conflicting credos and even people who don’t profess any religious faith like myself, may coincide: religion as a human practice has significantly contributed to the production of great art. All religions I should say, from ancient polytheism to the dominant, mostly monotheistic faiths of today, have left a mark in the diverse domains of the arts.

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) is putting on display some of those expressions of religiosity in a very peculiar form of artistic creation: the minimalist and many times anonymous works accompanying the so-called Books of Hours. These early texts were made for the private devotion of men and women and originated in the Middle Ages extending through the Renaissance as well. Under the title “Resplendent Illuminations – Book of Hours from the 13th to the 16th century in Quebec Collections” the MMFA will be offering the opportunity to examine some of these luminous expressions of Christian religiosity designed for lay people. The earliest of these works predate the invention of the printing press, therefore, were entirely made by hand. Once the printing press was invented, they became more readily available to people other than the rich. The printing press also made the illuminations to lose some of the local characteristics of the early paintings, since now they were standardized to the parameters set by Rome.

Nathalie Bondil, Director and Chief Curator at the MMFA

During the opening ceremony, Nathalie Bondil, Director of the MMFA, remarked the fact that this is the first time that such an exhibition is presented in Canada.

Hilliard T, Goldfarb, Senior Curator – Collections, and Curator of Old Masters at the MMFA

The display is set in a way that allows the visitor to examine the miniature works in detail, even some magnifying glasses are available for that purpose. “Our evocative installation is intended to permit the visitor to appreciate each work intimately,” said Hilliard T. Goldfarb, Senior Curator – Collections, and Curator of Old Masters at the MMFA.

“Resplendent Illuminations” will be open until January 6, 2019, at the Graphic Arts Centre in the Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion, Level S 2 of the MMFA, 1380 Sherbrooke West. For more information about ticket prices, and opening hours visit:

Master of the Échevinage of Rouen, Monk (Hermit) Praying for the Dead Man and Struggle for his Soul Between Saint Michael and the Devil, about 1470, Rouen, miniature taken from a manuscript breviary in Latin for the use of Rouen (?) or of Rome (?). Montreal, McGill University Library, Rare Books and Special Collections, purchased by Gerhard R. Lomer, librar-ian at McGill University, at the request of R. Cleveland Morgan, 1927. Photo Gregory Houston
Workshop of Maître François (François Le Barbier?), Pentecost, Horæ for the use of Paris, about 1475-1480, Paris. MMFA, Mrs. George D. Pratt Bequest. Photo MMFA, Jean-François Brière
Workshop of the Master of the Échevinage of Rouen, The Annunciation to the Shepherds, Hours of Pellegrin de Remicourt and Madeleine Symier, about 1470-1475, Rouen. Universite du Quebec à Montreal, Arts Library, Special Collections, Montreal School of Fine Arts Bequest, 1969. Photo Gilles Saint-Pierre
By: Sergio Martinez – [email protected]
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