Wednesday, 31 July 2013

August - Très Riches Heures




August depicts a group of noble men and women on horseback with the men carrying falcons. They are accompanied by dogs and a Falconer. Behind them a small group of peasants are taking a refreshing dip in the river whilst others scythe the corn and place it in bundles to be collected by the horse and cart seen on the left. The Duc de Berry's Château d' Étampes can be seen in the background.


All that remains of Château d' Étampes today
The blue tympanum shows the star signs for August of Leo the lion and Virgo the virgin. Again the chariot of the sun continues to make it's yearly cycle through the heavens in the center. 
In the July post for Très Riches Heures, I mentioned that I would describe the minerals and plants used to paint the manuscript.
Amongst the more unusual colours used to paint the manuscripts by the Limbourg brothers was vert de flambe, a green obtained from crushed flowers mixed with massicot (massicot is a lead oxide). A further green was made from malachite and wild irises. 
Pink: extracted from the boiling down of red dyewood. 
One shade of red was made from red oxide of lead; another, vermillion, produced from cinnabar or mercuric sulfide; a third made from red ocher. 
An ultramarine made from crushed Middle Eastern lapis-lazuli and used for the brilliant blues, along with cobalt. 
Violet: a colour extracted from sunflowers. 
Yellows: one shade from a monoxide of lead, the other from arsenic trisulfide 
White: made with white lead ore 
Black: made from either soot or ground charcoal. They also used gold leaf and gold ormolu powder.
It is not surprising that medieval painters often died at a very early age from handling toxic substances such as lead, mercury and arsenic, and as many of you will be aware, artists do have a tendency to put brushes in their mouths to give them a sharp point whilst carrying out very fine details on paintings.
Month of September here.

20 comments:

  1. I love the Tres Riches Heures but strangely had not connected them with real life. They seem to portray a wondrous alternative universe.

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    1. The manuscripts were painted by the three Limbourg brothers for their patron the Duc de Berry. They depict scenes over 12 calendar months featuring the Duke's properties across France, his servants, his noble friends and the activities carried out during the year by himself, his friends, and his servants. "A Year in the life of the Duc de Berry!!!"

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  2. Very lovely. Star signs are interesting to say the least.

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    1. Each month is depicted in such fine detail, you need a magnifying glass to really see it all.

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  3. Verry interesting story you tell us.
    I didn't know that painters died on a early age, because they put the brush in the mounths.
    Verry nice photo's.

    Have a nice day,
    Greetings,
    Inge, my choice

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    1. The three Limbourg brothers who painted these manuscripts for the Duc de Berry died in the same year in their 20s. However, it was thought that they died of the plague. There were no health and safety laws as we have today, and the dangers of mercury poisoning etc would not have been known.

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  4. Dear Rosemary,

    I had to chuckle as I read this posting, since I have tasted many fine brush tips! It's so interesting to see the breakdown of the colors used in these illuminations, both for their toxic qualities and their high cost (it actually pains me to know that lapis and malachite were crushed, but it went to a good cause).

    On another note, I see from your second photograph that the castle is uplit at night; that must be spectacular!

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    1. Thanks for the confirmation re: tasting fine brush tips Mark - I did it myself and remember seeing others do it too.
      Having the actual buildings that featured on the manuscripts still in France brings them vividly to life for us today.
      Believe it or not but that is almost half a years worth I have shown already - time flies by.

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  5. Such an interesting story, Rosemary. Thank you for sharing that. I like that colorful painting with so many characters. Happy Wednesday!

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    1. Thank you Satu - I set myself the challenge to show each month from Très Riches Heures beginning last April, so 5 down and 7 to go.

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  6. I like the fact that Duc de Berry's ornate commissioned work depicts the architecture of his properties and details of his courtly life and also includes country scenes and seasonal activities on his land. Thanks for including the Chateau d'Etampes as it is today.

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    1. I suppose that it is like a photograph album would be today. The Duc de Berry certainly had lots of properties at his disposal.

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  7. Dear Rosemary,such an interesting story.
    Very beautiful pictures!
    Thank you for sharing!
    Have a lovely new month!
    Dimi...

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    1. It is interesting to see how life was lived during the 15th century for the very rich in France. Hope August is a good month for you Dimi.

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  8. The colours are certainly vivid, fascinating to learn more about their source.
    Look forward to seeing more!

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    1. I started showing the months in April so nearly half way through now - it is an interesting snapshot of a moment in time during the 15th century.

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  9. I was fascinated to learn about the sources of those beautiful and vivid colours, but I can see from the ingredients of the paint how toxic it was. I do love the August painting; it does show a real contrast between the refined, leisured-life of the nobility and the common folk working in the fields and then enjoying the simple, rustic pleasure of a quick dip in the river!

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    1. The illustrated manuscripts have retained their colours for 600 years. Each month is a little glimpse into courtly life in France during the 15th century and also that of their servants. An interesting record of that period.

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  10. Fascinating as always, Rosemary. As you were enumerating the colours and their ingredients, I was thinking how many of them sounded dangerously poisonous. Your concluding sentence thus came as no surprise.

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    1. I am now nearly half way through the calendar - having set myself the task of doing all 12 months I hope I can complete the job.
      Each month is a wonderful little glimpse into the lives of the French nobles and their servants.

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