Art in a Time of War: The Master of Morgan 453 and Manuscript Illumination in Paris during the English Occupation (1419–1435)

Gregory T. Clark

Studies and Texts 197; Text Image Context: Studies in Medieval Manuscript Illumination 3. xxviii, 388 pp., including 253 colour images. 2016. ISBN 978-0-88844-197-3 • Cloth • $130

Art in a Time of War seeks to fill an important gap in our knowledge of painting in fifteenth-century France. Focusing on the work of “the Master of Morgan 453,” an accomplished, if unnamed, manuscript illuminator, Clark identifies, compares, and analyzes all extant books that can be attributed to the painter and reconstructs his career on the basis of a wide range of liturgical as well as art-historical criteria.

In examining collaborations and workshop practices involving many different illuminators who hailed not only from Northern France but also from the Netherlands, Clark’s work also sheds light on complex artistic interchanges between France, Flanders, and England at a time of profound political change. The survey of the career of the Morgan 453 Master and his intense artistic milieu is complemented by a comprehensive catalogue of manuscripts and a checklist of Parisian illuminators and manuscripts, ca. 1420–1450, as well as liturgical appendices and an associated website.


Gregory T. Clark is Professor of Art History at Sewanee, University of the South. He received his doctorate from Princeton University and was Assistant Curator of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts at the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York. A specialist in manuscript illumination in northern France and the southern Netherlands in the fifteenth century, he has published numerous articles and is the author of Made in Flanders: The Master of the Ghent Privileges and Manuscript Illumination in the Southern Netherlands in the Time of Philip the Good (2000), and The Spitz Master: A Parisian Book of Hours (2003). He has also published commentaries on The Hours of Isabel la Católica (1999) and on the Da Costa Hours (2010).


“In the Hundred Years’ War, when Paris fell to the English in 1420, the French capital became an occupied city. Parisian patrons of the book arts – and most of their illuminators – fled. The fifteen-year occupation of Paris has been deemed a fallow period for French illumination. Greg Clark’s study reveals a subtler reading of the manuscripts. He traces the career of a Netherlandish artist – dubbed the Master of Morgan 453 – who worked in Paris, Amiens, and Picardy during these troubled times. Clark thoroughly analyzes the work and influence of this animated expressionist and iconographic trailblazer.”
Roger S. WieckThe Morgan Library and Museum

“Gregory Clark, who gave us the first comprehensive study of the Spitz Master, here turns his attention to the career of a fellow artist, the creative “Master of Morgan 453,” who owes his name to the lavish book of hours he illuminated in the 1420s found today in the Morgan Library and Museum in New York. Using the textual context of the miniatures, Clark explores the Master’s links with Amiens and the ateliers of Northern France, as well as his relationships with the Parisian book trade. The result is a detailed and up-to-date synthesis on the subject of book production in Paris during the English occupation which makes a major contribution to our understanding of fifteenth-century illumination in France. For scholars and interested general readers alike, Art in a Time of War will prove a most welcome book.”
Inès Villela-PetitBibliothèque nationale de France


“In this beautiful book, Gregory T. Clark returns to the subject of his 1988 dissertation, the opus of the Master of Morgan 453, an illuminator active in Paris and Amiens from about 1420 to about 1450. Expanding on his earlier project, Clark situates the artist's work in the broader context of miniature painting in Paris at a particularly fraught time: the English occupation of the city from 1420 to 1436. In prose that mirrors his illuminator's animated style, Clark carefully makes a persuasive case that this painter's work remained lively and inventive at a time when such efforts were relatively rare. ... Clark’s book is not only beautifully written; in its design, it is nearly as lovely as his objects of study. The volume is generously illustrated, with a handsome layout that is as elegant as it is legible.”
Camille Serchuk, in Speculum (2019)


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