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.
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...