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Folio 43r from the De Brailes Hours showing a signed self-portrait by "W de Brailes who painted me" (left margin).[1]

William de Brailes (active c. 1230 – c. 1260) was an English Early Gothic "manuscript illuminator, presumably born in "Brailes, Warwickshire. He signed two manuscripts, and apparently worked in "Oxford, where he is documented from 1238 to 1252, owning property in "Catte Street near the "University Church of St Mary the Virgin, roughly on the site now occupied by the chapel of "All Souls College, where various members of the book-trade lived. He was married, to Celena, but evidently also held "minor orders, as at least three "self-portraits show him with a clerical "tonsure.[2][3] This was not unusual: by this date, and with the exception of the "St. Albans monk "Matthew Paris, the only other English illuminator of the period about whom we have significant personal information, most English illumination seems to have been done in commercial workshops run by laymen.[4]



Typical page from a small Brailes bible
Page, probably from a psalter (Ms W.106, f. 11v), showing the "Crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:26:30)

William de Brailes illuminated Bibles, "psalters, a "Book of Hours and secular texts, and may also have been a scribe. He is associated with a distinctive style, but other artists also worked in this manner, and distinguishing his hand from theirs is difficult. The style is characterised by energetic gesticulating figures, though with a limited range of facial expression, and a concern for narrative. Ornamental bars stretch out from "historiated initials to the top or sides of the text, a feature in transition from the "Romanesque style to the mature Gothic style, where decorative borders run round the whole page.[4] Larger "miniatures often contain different scenes in separate roundels. Most of his manuscripts have a page size similar to that of a standard modern paperback,[5] and reflect the trend towards the personal ownership of books by well off but not extravagant members of both clergy and "laity.

The principal works attributed to Brailes and his workshop include:


  1. ^ Morgan, no 73. British Library, another image, Penitent David
  2. ^ Morgan, p.30
  3. ^ Jonathan Alexander; Medieval Illuminators and their Methods of Work; p.25, Yale UP, 1992, "ISBN "0-300-05689-3 Leaf from a psalter (MS 330.iii), lower right roundel, next to angel. Fitzwilliam see below for another.
  4. ^ a b Morgan, p. 30
  5. ^ 183 x 113 mm
  6. ^ Morgan, no. 73. British Library, another image, Penitent David
  7. ^ "Eamon Duffy, Marking the Hours: English People and Their Prayers, 1240–1570, 2006 Yale University Press, "ISBN "0-300-11714-0 online
  8. ^ By Claire Donovan – see further reading Medievalia Et Humanistica: Studies in Medieval & Renaissance Culture review At least one older Italian book of hours was recently rediscovered (see page 6)
  9. ^ "Eamon Duffy, Marking the Hours: English People and Their Prayers, 1240–1570, 2006
  10. ^ Morgan, no. 68
  11. ^ Morgan, no. 71. images from the facsimile "Oxford Bible Pictures", Four images by Brailes from the Paris portion
  12. ^ Morgan, no. 74
  13. ^ Morgan, no. 72. Page from Fitzwilliam (2nd down) Archived 18 July 2013 at the "Wayback Machine.,Morgan Library
  14. ^ Peter Kidd, "A Franciscan Bible Illuminated in the Style of William de Brailes". British Library Journal, 2007 online version
  15. ^ Morgan, No 69,MS. Lat. bib. e. 7, Bodleian: Bible by or in the style of de Brailes; 72 images. The Bodleian has another Bible in the style.
  16. ^ Morgan, no. 70
  17. ^ "Free Library of Philadelphia". Libwww.library.phila.gov. 5 December 2010. Retrieved 13 June 2012. 


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