Sunday, 1 December 2013

December - Très Riches Heures

With this December post from the illuminated manuscript of Très Riches Heures I am ¾ of the way through the 12 month cycle. What exactly is the Très Riches Heures? It is the calendar section of a medieval book of hours. The book of hours was a medieval collection of texts for each liturgical hour of the day - hence the name - it often included other supplementary texts - calendars, prayers, psalms and masses for certain holy days. Très Riches Heures is arguably the most beautiful part of the manuscript; it is without doubt the best known, and is one of the great art treasurers of France.
This month shows the forest of Vincennes, fabled for its game. The hunt is just about over; the boar has been run to ground and the dogs have fallen upon it. As I mentioned here both the November and the December illustrations were not carried out by the Limbourg brothers due to their deaths, thought to be from the plague. This illustration is considered to be the work of Barthelemy d'Eyck, however, the lunette is by the three Limbourg brothers. They painted all 12 lunettes - presumably they painted the lunettes first before commencing on the main monthly illustrations. 
In the background is Château de Vincennes which had its origins in an 11th century hunting lodge, and was the birth place of the Duc de Berry, who commissioned Très Riches Heures from the Limbourg brothers.
Château de Vincennes is a massive royal castle in the town of Vincennes to the east of Paris. Mainly constructed during the 14th century by Charles V but enlarged during the 17th century, it was one of the most important castles in French history.
The blue lunette shows the zodiac sign for Sagittarius  in the first half of the month and Capricorn in the second half on the cusp. In the centre the chariot of the sun continues it's yearly cycle through the heavens.
Month of January here.

40 comments:

  1. Another post to proliferate my knowledge ! I did not know that the blue lunette shows the zodiac sign for Sagittarius ( mine ) !! Thank you for sharing this ! Happy Sunday from rainy Thessaloniki !

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    1. Dear Olympia - Happy birthday to you when it arrives - the blue lunettes for each of the Très Riches Heures calendar months shows the relevant zodiac signs. They are exquisitely painted, and I always enjoy seeing the central chariot of the sun making its journey each month.

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  2. Ah, there is my star sign, the Sagittarius, on the beautiful blue lunette! The December picture certainly gives a very accurate rendition of the hunt, but I am wondering why the illustrator did not do something with reference to Christmas. Perhaps it was not such a big feast day back in that era? The chateau Vincennes is a crisply elegant building against the blue skies. Looking forward to the next of the Heures.

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    1. Everyone who is anyone seems to be a Sagittarius - Olympia too, who commented just before you is also one.
      I am assuming that in the 15th century Christmas was not celebrated in the way it is today. They also followed different dates depending on whether the Gregorian calendar or the Julian calendar were used. Christmas trees, father christmas, and card giving are all relatively new.
      Next month does show feasting and present giving amongst the nobility which ties in with the Gregorian calendar.

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    2. I am just now catching up on your previous showings of les Très Riches Heures, Rosemary. They have always been a favorite of mine - their rich blue colors and other vibrant jewel tones are my most favorite colors.

      How sweet of you to comment as you did about the Sagitarrius' among us! Count me in, too!

      I will continue to read up on your previous posts!

      Mary in Oregon

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    3. Dear Mary - nice to hear from you again. Glad you are reading the previous posts showing the months from les Très Riches Heures. By the March post I will have completed the whole year.

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  3. Another very informative post, Rosemary. Thank you.

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  4. Dear Rosemary, Just celebrated my Birthday...another Sagittarius to add to the list. Thank you for explaining Tres Riches...was only vaguely familiar with the meaning. Happy Sunday to you.

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    1. Dear Gina - belated birthday greetings - hope you had a wonderful day.
      Only three more posts to go. I didn't realise until I started these posts how quickly the month goes.

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  5. Hello Rosemary
    I have enjoyed reading this brief history of Tres Riches Heures. Your knowledge and research I greatly appreciate. The ultramarine/Lapis lazuli is so brilliant.

    Wishing you a wonderful Sunday/advent and week ahead

    Helen xx

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    1. Hello Helen - the blue is still such a wonderful rich shade after 600 years, and you are right by saying it lapis lazuli for that is what it was ground from.

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  6. Hello Rosemary,
    You've been out and about since I last dropped in. Thank you for sharing the beauty you see in your travels and the beauty closer to your home. Your blog is like a restorative tonic. Thank you.
    Anyes
    xx

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    1. Hello Anyes - lovely to hear from you. Yes, you are right we have been having lots of adventures, some which we expected, and some which we did not. We went to seek fairy chimneys, and that post is still to follow.

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    2. I think of all the paintings so far, this is my least favourite. More from the subject matter than anything else. Whenever we've travelled anywhere on the Paris metro it seems to be in Direction Chateau de Vincennes. Now I know what is at the end of the line!

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    3. Now my eldest son has moved to Paris I must try and visit the area. Apparently there is a very nice park and also a zoo, the only one in Paris. You will like next months image Jessica.

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  7. And again a new month is beginning.
    I looked forward too the next month...it is verry interesting.
    Have a fine week rosemary.

    Greetings,
    Inge, my choice

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    1. Dear Inge - I can't believe how quickly the next month is with us - since I have been doing these posts the time in between seems to have become even shorter - it must be my imagination.

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  8. I've found all these monthly paintings completely fascinating, Rosemary, although, like Jessica, I'm not keen on the subject matter of this one! The chateau looks looks very impressive in your lovely photo. From the painting, it obviously dominated the landscape, towering even over the trees.

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    1. The way the Château dominates the forest brings to mind a contemporary view of Central Park, New York.

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  9. Dear Rosemary,

    It's interesting to compare the illuminated castle with your photograph of it. It seems that the castle at one time had many more towers, and I'm guessing that it might have fallen victim to some battles.

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    1. Dear Mark - at some stage I must visit the château whilst visiting my son in Paris, and then I shall hopefully discover the answer.

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  10. Dear Rosemary,

    The first thing which struck me as I saw, with fresh eyes, December in Les Très Riches Heures is how the colour of the trees juxtaposed against the dazzling blue sky is EXACTLY what I've been admiring the most these late autumn days on my countryside walks. If I gaze out of the window now I am met with the most glorious yellow foliage.

    Thank you so much for your kind comment on my blog. It really touched me.

    Stephanie

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    1. Dear Stephanie - that is true of here too - in fact yesterday I was out capturing some photos of the trees against the blue skies. Strange to recall that exactly 600 years ago they must have been experiencing a similar winter to us when this was painted.
      Delighted to learn your news.

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  11. I have always adored the Tres Riches Heures partly because of the other worldly look of it. Don't those towers look at first glimpse like skyscrapers? And, don't French castles always look like something from a fairytale? What a wonderful contrast to the workaday world, which is also so beautifully portrayed.

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    1. My thoughts exactly Jenny - as I commented to Wendy - the view of the towers above the trees brought to my mind a contemporary view of Central Park in New York.

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  12. Oh, what happened to the other towers? It was enlarged but looks smaller. I will have to visit in spring when we return to Paris. Happy December!!

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    1. My son and his family now live in Paris, so hopefully on one of my trips over, I shall visit Château de Vincennes too.

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  13. Another fascinating post ! I used to live in Paris when I was young, but never visited the castle , something to make up for next time I go there :-)

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    1. I have never visited either Jane but intend to visit at sometime in the future when visiting Paris.

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  14. That is very interesting and one of your interests I gather.
    Love the the Castle.

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    1. So far I have recorded nine of the calendar months, each one I have found interesting to research.

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  15. thanks for sharing each month details with us...I love the French chateaux! sunny greetings from sunny Rijswijk:-))

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    1. Yes, doing this post has introduced me to the château which I shall now make a point of visiting when in Paris.

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  16. Fascinating illustrations and history lesson, thank you!
    The most striking feature is the background, those castle towers are so tal! l (Well, the frighteningly large hounds are not to be dismissed either.) We probably can't even imagine the horror of the plague, living through it must have been true hell.

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    1. Dear Merisi - it all looks very colourful but of course the reality was quite different. The Lords in their castles with servants and everything they needed in contrast to the pheasants whose lives were wretched. The total opposite was true of the plague which did not discriminate between rich or poor - all were vulnerable to it.

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  17. Hello Rosemary, I almost missed this post on the December Tres Riches Heures. I was drawn to the hunting horns in this scene. It seems that the French had a special affinity for these instruments. When I collected early records, it seems that all those of hunting horns came from France. Something about the timber of these horns really takes one back to medieval times. I also liked the detail of the rather burly character in the red clothes and curly hair, who seems to be the only competent and practical one in the scene.
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - interesting to learn about the hunting horns.
      Yes, that character in red looks a strong rough diamond, the other two in comparison look rather weakly.

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  18. I've really enjoyed this series of posts on the Tres Riches Heures, Rosemary. Thank you.

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    1. Thank you too Perpetua - the end is nigh, only three more to go.

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