Book of hours is put back together after 300 years

But within a century of its production, the whereabouts of The Hours of Louis XII were unknown. By 1700 its 36 pages were scattered to the wind, only gradually reappearing in collections in Britain and France.

The hunt is still on for 19 pages. But for the first time in at least three centuries, 15 of the 16 known pages, or miniatures, have been reassembled for an exhibition that has just opened at the Getty Centre in Los Angeles and comes to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, in February.

It includes three miniatures recently acquired by the Getty and the V& A's own miniature, "The Nativity", which was bought for £250,000 two years ago.

The organisers hope that the publicity surrounding the reconstruction will bring other leaves to light. Mark Evans, the V&A's senior curator of paintings, said: "I remain optimistic that other miniatures survive."

The Hours of Louis XII was illuminated by Jean Bourdichon, a court painter, in 1498-9. Its pages were meant to inspire and guide private devotion - although one, of a naked Bathsheba bathing, seems curiously provo-cative for a pious book.

By the late 1500s, however, its whereabouts were unknown. It may have come to England after Louis XII's death in 1515, where its leaves may have been dispersed. Two, which later passed to the British Museum, were documented in a volume of calligraphy compiled by the diarist Samuel Pepys. The book's text was given to the British Library in 1757. In 1848, the English politician Henry Labouchere acquired one miniature and 40 years later, three more were bought by an Argyll landowner, John Malcolm of Poltalloch.

In the 20th century, others surfaced at auction. One was given to the Bristol Art Gallery and another to the National Library of Scotland. But the detective story only began in earnest in 1973 when Janet Backhouse, an academic, identified a sequence of pages and the British Library text as coming from a major French book of hours. This exhibition is the result of three decades of research.

"A Masterpiece Reconstructed: The Hours of Louis XII" runs at the Getty until 8 January and then at the V&A from 2 February until 1 May.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Belong: Volunteer Mentor for Offenders

This is a volunteer role with paid expenses : Belong: Seeking volunteers who c...

Recruitment Genius: Admin Assistant

£12000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An admin assistant is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Administrator

£16500 - £17500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking to recruit an ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests