The Isabella Breviary

The Isabella Breviary f. 436v, The coat of arms of the Catholic Monarchs and those of their two children and respective spouses


f. 436v, The coat of arms of the Catholic Monarchs and those of their two children and respective spouses

The painting represents the coat of arms of the Catholic Monarchs or rather the coat of arms of the kingdoms of the two monarchs. Upon a blue, illusionary ground inside a plain frame is St John’s eagle in gold, the head of which is flanked by two phylacteries reading, on the left, svb vmbra/alarvm/tvarum and, on the right, protege/nos. It holds in its claws the monarchs’ coat of arms surmounted by a crown. The first and fourth quarters of the shield are occupied by the quartered castles and lions which represent Castile and Leon for Isabella. In the second and third quarters the arms of Aragon impaling Sicily appear for Ferdinand. Finally, the pomegranate badge of Granada occupies the point of the shield.
In the lower part are two smaller, counterquartered coats of arms. The one on the left, held by a belt, is that of prince Juan of Asturias and Margaret of Austria. The one on the right, with an imperial crown upon it, is that of Joanna I of Castile and archduke Philip I of Hapsburg. The coats of arms of the prince and princess of Spain are identical to those of the Catholic Monarchs. Those of the Hapsburg dynasty, occupying the left and right flanks respectively, are quartered with small shield superimposed. In the first quarter is the coat of arms of modern Austria: gules band argent; in the second, that of modern Burgundy (duchy of Dijon): azure three fleur-de-lys or, two and one; in 3, belonging to old Burgundy (Franche-Comté: Besançon): or and azure band ordered 3 and 3 with chequered border gules. Quarter 4, sable, lion or langued rampant representing Brabant (duchy of Brussels, Antwerp, Louvain and Breda) and finally, a superimposed shield or lion rampant sable for Flanders (county of Bruges and Ghent). Both shields are surrounded by three phylacteries with the following mottoes pro patribvs tvis nati svnt tibi filii and constitvisti eos principes svper omnem terram, both taken from Psalm 44: 17, and potens in terra erit semen eivs generatio rectorvm benedicetvr from Psalm 111: 2, referring in this context to the divine royalty, power and fecundity of the princes.
Obviously, despite being painted after the breviary was finished, the coats of arms of the Catholic Monarchs and those of their children and respective spouses, particularly as regards the mottoes, provide a post quem point for dating the codex. In all likelihood, this folio was added before October 4th 1497, the date when Juan de Trastámara, prince of Asturias, died. The similarity between the full-page image in this breviary, with three coats of arms set in a rather shallow, illusionary space, and the painting of the coat of arms of Isabella I of Castile in a book of hours (Cleveland, The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1963-256, f. 1v) made in the 90s, confirms the authenticity of the coat of arms in the breviary. The double wedding by proxy took place in Flanders in November 1495, with Francisco de Rojas acting on behalf of the young prince and princess. The presentation of the codex by the ambassador to his queen was perhaps to celebrate this event.

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