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Renaissance era prayer book up for auction in NYC

NEW YORK (AP) — A Renaissance prayer book that broke the auction record for an illuminated manuscript 15 years ago is on the auction block again.

The Rothschild Prayerbook is slated to be sold at Christie's New York auction house on Wednesday for an estimated $12 million to $18 million. The ornately illustrated Book of Hours was sold to a European collector in 1999 at Christie's London for $13.4 million. It was commissioned around 1505 by a member of the imperial court of the Netherlands and entered the Rothschild family collection in the 19th century.

The 150-page book features lavish full-page colored drawings called miniatures and borders by leading masters of illumination, including painter Gerard Horenbout, who served in the court of England's Henry VIII.

Among the highlights is a miniature of the virgin and child on a crescent moon by the painter Gerard David. The manuscript was part of a collection of Nazi-confiscated treasures returned to the Rothschild banking dynasty by the Austrian government in 1999.

Everything "from the quality of the parchment to the wealth of refinement of the decoration marks the Rothschild Prayerbook as one of the most prestigious and exquisite examples of Flemish manuscript illumination," said Nicholas Hall, co-chairman of Christie's Old Masters and 19th-century art.

The Rothschild Prayerbook is closely related to a Book of Hours in the British Library, the Spinola Hours at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Grimani Breviary at the Marciana library in Venice.

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