With miniatures displaying astounding plays of spatial illusionism, the luxurious personal prayer book known as the Spinola Hours is one of the most visually sophisticated Flemish manuscripts of the sixteenth century. A book of hours contains a calendar of Church holidays, the Hours of the Virgin, which is a cycle of prayer services devoted to the Virgin Mary, the Office for the Dead, and other prayers, hymns, and readings. This particular book augments these contents with a special series of weekday offices and masses, providing even more possibilities for rich illuminations.
The Master of James IV of Scotland, while the primary illuminator, collaborated with several other artists to produce the eighty-eight large illuminations in the manuscript. The originality of his work can be seen in the startling illusions present in his miniatures, including such details as paintings of metal pins so real they seem to pierce the parchment. The book was undoubtedly commissioned for a wealthy patron, perhaps Margaret of Austria, for whom The Master of James IV of Scotland produced other works. In the 1700s the book belonged to the Spinola family in Genoa, from whom it takes its modern name.
Other artists whose illuminations appear in this manuscript include the Master of the Dresden Prayer Book and the Master of the Prayer Books of around 1500.