From the museum press release, 2 June 2009
Following the successful Limbourg Brothers exhibition in 2005, the museum will now present the most important late medieval manuscript from the Northern Netherlands: the Hours of Catherine of Cleves (c. 1440). This anonymous masterpiece from The Morgan Library & Museum in New York will be disbound for the occasion so that more than 100 pages can be viewed separately in Nijmegen. In addition to pages from the Hours, a large portion of the widespread oeuvre of the Master of Catherine of Cleves will be brought together for the Nijmegen exhibition. Daily life in the Middle Ages will be illustrated by means of medieval costumes and Catherine of Cleves’ original household account books.
The ‘Museum seeks Duchess’ pageant will be held prior to the exhibition on 13 June. The winner will make appearances for the museum in the role of Catherine of Cleves during the course of the exhibition.
A reduced version of the exhibition will be on show at The Morgan Library & Museum in New York from 5 February to 2 May 2010.
The anonymous master: top-class illuminator
Lavish miniatures showing biblical scenes, saints, handicrafts, plants and animals were painted by an unknown master for Catherine of Cleves, duchess of Guelders (1417-1476).
Known as the ‘Master of Catherine of Cleves’, he is considered one of the best Northern-European illuminators of the 15th century. With an eye for detail he created an intimate world of devotion, demons and daily life in the late Middle Ages. Amongst other things, visitors will see the Holy Family at work and sinister devils in a hell’s mouth.
The oeuvre: artworks brought together from across the world
In addition to 100 pages from the Hours, a large portion of the Master of Catherine of Cleves’ widespread oeuvre will be brought together for the Nijmegen exhibition. Included are manuscripts from The Morgan Library & Museum (New York), The British Library (London), the Royal Library (The Hague), the Museum Meermanno (The Hague) and the Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte (Munster). This will be supplemented by important masterpieces from The British Museum (London), Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge) and the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Berlin).
Medieval attire and ‘Museum seeks Duchess’ pageant
Awaiting visitors at the start of the exhibition is a ‘joyous entry’ of Catherine of Cleves – a life-like parade of over 20 figures representing a cross-section of society. They are dressed in the costumes worn at the annual ‘Limbourg Brothers Festival’. One of the most unique pieces is an authentic reconstruction of the costume in which Catherine of Cleves is portrayed in her Hours. On Saturday 13 June the best Catherine imitation will be chosen in a special Catherine of Cleves pageant in Museum Het Valkhof. She will appear as Catherine of Cleves in activities relating to the exhibition, the exhibition film and animation images.
Catherine’s household account books: straw, meat and herbs
A spectacular discovery was recently made in the Guelders Archive: the household account books of Catherine of Cleves. They were used for the administration of her royal household in the Valkhof castle in Nijmegen and other residences of the Guelders dukes. Written centuries ago, the precisely recorded orders can now tell us about the amount of meat and fish that was eaten, how many bales of straw were needed for the horses and about Catherine’s medicinal herbs.
Exhibition in De Stratemakerstoren
Concurrent with ‘Catherine’s world’ there will be an exhibition in De Stratemakerstoren in Nijmegen concerning Catherine’s travels in the duchy of Guelders. Her husband, Duke Arnold, and his travels to the Holy Land will also be addressed.
The exhibition costumes were created by the studios Het Woud der Verwachting, Stadelmaier, Sint Sartorius, Atelier Corinne Roes and the Nijmegen studio Cotardie in collaboration with the Limbourg Brothers Foundation. Thanks also to the Guelders Archive for their expertise and advice.