Press release

£8m jewel-encrusted Book of Hours risks export

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has placed a temporary export bar on the Book of Hours to keep it in the country

Book of Hours
Book of Hours

A rare jewel-studded book that once belonged to former King of France François Ier is at risk of being exported from the UK unless a buyer can be found to match the asking price of £8,000,000. Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has placed a temporary export bar on the Book of Hours to keep it in the country.

This jewelled Book of Hours was made in 1532 and belonged to François Ier of France (1494-1547). Its metal cover is made of enamelled gold studded with jewels and precious stones including rubies, turquoises and a tourmaline. Inside the elaborate binding is a parchment Book of Hours, which was a Christian devotional book popular in the Middle Ages. It is painted with twenty religious images and prayers to be said throughout the day.

Most of the paintings were completed by the ‘1520s Hours Workshop’ which were book artists who produced high quality manuscripts for royal and aristocratic patrons. The book was then bought by François Ier, whose Renaissance court was known as a centre of art and learning. The book has then passed through numerous hands, including François Ier’s sister Marguerite d’Angoulême, Henri IV, and Cardinal Mazarin. Jewelled books are considered extremely rare and the high-quality painting inside the book makes it a unique survival.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said:

This exceptional book provides us with a rare glimpse into the royal courts of 16th century Renaissance France and is of outstanding scholarly value. I hope that this unique book remains in the UK for the public to enjoy.

The decision to defer the export licence follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), administered by The Arts Council.

The RCEWA made its recommendation on the grounds that the book was of exceptional splendour and of outstanding significance for the study of the applied arts and of iconology at the Renaissance court of François Ier of France.

RCEWA member Peter Barber said:

This magnificently illuminated and perfectly preserved manuscript prayer book, its gold cover glittering with precious stones,some of them engraved,is a unique survivor of the luxurious books combining Flemish, French and Italian elements that typified the Renaissance culture of the court of François Ier of France. Such splendidly bound manuscripts set the European standard and Henry VIII is recorded as owning very similar books. They are now only known through mentions in inventories. The British public now has the chance to keep this unique surviving example, a European masterpiece in miniature, in the United Kingdom and available for display and study by future generations.

The decision on the export licence application for the book will be deferred until 11th October 2016. This may be extended until 11th April 2017 if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase it is made at the recommended price of £8,000,000.

Organisations or individuals interested in purchasing the book should contact the RCEWA on 0845 300 6200.

An image of the Book of Hours can be downloaded here.

For media information contact: Francesca Roettger Moreda Communications Officer Department for Culture Media and Sport Tel: 0207 211 6263 Email: francesca.moreda@culture.gov.uk

Notes to Editors

Organisations or individuals interested in purchasing the Book of Hours should contact the RCEWA on 0845 300 6200.

Details of the Book of Hours is as follows: A Book of Hours in enamelled gold binding (1532) 85 x 65mm 1520s Hours atelier, Paris

The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest is an independent body, serviced by The Arts Council, advises the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on whether a cultural object, intended for export, is of national importance under specified criteria.

The Arts Council champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. It supports a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. www.artscouncil.org.uk

Published 12 July 2016