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In Medieval Europe the Book of Hours, so called because its core component consists of the Hours of the Virgin, became the prayer book of choice for worshippers prosperous enough to commission or purchase such a book.
Although its contents were of monastic origin, literate lay readers were the most likely to use books of hours, as served not only as a prayer book, but also as a way of keeping track of the calendar, often doubling as a family chronicle.
Books of hours provide insight into broad patterns of piety marking the High and later Middle Ages, and through their choice of texts, images and added materials, inform us about the interior life and aspirations of everyone from kings and queens and lords and ladies to monks and nuns and, ordinary members of the patrician class, merchants and others.
In this course, we will explore how books of hours provide the closest thing we have to a comprehensive and continuous record of the development of painting across most of western Europe from the later thirteenth through the early sixteenth century.
“The Book of Hours” is one module of a series of courses called “The Book: Histories Across Time and Space.” You may take this course on its own, or with the other courses of the series.
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- How to analyze and understand the Book of Hours in the context of Medieval European art
- How to recognize regional variation in Books of Hours
- The history of prayer in the Western Middle Ages
- How to place the history of the Book of Hours as a genre within the context of the broader development of painting in Europe over the course of the 12th through the early 16th centuries
- The role of images in prayer and piety through comparison to works of art in the Harvard University Art Museums
- Jeffrey F. Hamburger
Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Established in 1636 and named for its first benefactor clergyman John Harvard, Harvard is the United States' oldest institution of higher learning, and its history, influence, and wealth have made it one of the world's most prestigious universities. The Harvard Corporation is its first chartered corporation. Although never formally affiliated with any denomination, the early College primarily trained Congregational and Unitarian clergy. Its curriculum and student body were gradually secularized during the 18th century, and by the 19th century, Harvard had emerged as the central cultural establishment among Boston elites. Following the American Civil War, President Charles W. Eliot's long tenure (1869–1909) transformed the college and affiliated professional schools into a modern research university; Harvard was a founding member of the Association of American Universities in 1900. A. Lawrence Lowell, who followed Eliot, further reformed the undergraduate curriculum and undertook aggressive expansion of Harvard's land holdings and physical plant. James Bryant Conant led the university through the Great Depression and World War II and began to reform the curriculum and liberalize admissions after the war. The undergraduate college became coeducational after its 1977 merger with Radcliffe College.
The university is organized into eleven separate academic units—ten faculties and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study—with campuses throughout the Boston metropolitan area: its 209-acre (85 ha) main campus is centered on Harvard Yard in Cambridge, approximately 3 miles (5 km) northwest of Boston; the business school and athletics facilities, including Harvard Stadium, are located across the Charles River in the Allston neighborhood of Boston and the medical, dental, and public health schools are in the Longwood Medical Area. The endowment of Harvard's is worth $37.1 billion, making it the largest of any academic institution.
Harvard is a large, highly residential research university. The nominal cost of attendance is high, but the university's large endowment allows it to offer generous financial aid packages. The Harvard Library is the world's largest academic and private library system, comprising 79 individual libraries holding over 18 million items. The University is cited as one of the world's top tertiary institutions by various organizations.
Harvard's alumni include eight U.S. presidents, several foreign heads of state, 62 living billionaires, 359 Rhodes Scholars, and 242 Marshall Scholars. To date, some 157 Nobel laureates, 18 Fields Medalists, and 14 Turing Award winners have been affiliated as students, faculty, or staff. In addition, Harvard students and alumni have won 10 Academy Awards, 48 Pulitzer Prizes, and 108 Olympic medals (46 gold, 41 silver and 21 bronze).
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