Books of hours were simplified breviaries, or prayer books. Based primarily on the offices chanted by monks and nuns, they date back to the mid-6th century and the Benedictine order.
These books were some of the most beautiful illuminated books of all time. While some were illustrated with biblical scenes, others contained images of domestic and daily life from the farm, the city, the castle. Within small, jewel-like frames, mysterious, complex landscapes stretch away; their borders overflow with wildly growing vines and flowers, and are studded with detailed images of the local animals, insects, plants, and flowers. Not at all the silent images of a prayer book, they are amazingly fresh and intimate visions of small lives, lived there in front of us.
The Book of Hours, at its simplest, is a series of eight prayer times, spaced throughout the day and night. The Hours are based less on the ticking of a clock, and more on the movement of the sun across the sky and the natural cycles of life: eating, sleeping, working, resting.
The Hours themselves seem to mark almost universal units of time; breaks in the cycle of hours that almost everyone seems to feel and recognize, and mark somehow with their own icons and images, their own private prayers, their own interior landscapes. These drawings are one of a series in progress, an exploration of my cycle of hours, my own icons and moments of reflection throughout the long turn of hours, dark to light to dark again, each day.
The Book of Hours corresponds roughlyto the hours of the clock thus:
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