Wednesday, 1 January 2014

January - Très Riches Heures

The first of January dawns with gift giving. We can see some of the wealthy friends of the Duc de Berry bringing New Year gifts to their lord.  He can be seen seated on the right at a table laden with food for a banquet. He is dressed in a striking blue robe decorated with gold fleurs de lys - indicating his support for the French monarchy. Behind him to the right are two young men wearing black head gear - it is thought that they are two of the Limbourg brothers who painted most of the Très Riches Heures.
On the wall behind the revellers is a wonderful tapestry showing scenes from the Trojan War (although the soldiers are dressed in 15th century uniforms). It is considered to be a reference to the war which was currently being fought against King Henry V of England who defeated the French at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.
Note: As a result of a comment now received from Perpetua I can include some extra information. Perpetua watched a programme called the Tudor Monastery Farm on hospitality. This enabled her to recognise that the two young men in front of the table are pages, charged with serving their lord and his guests at table. It is possible to tell this by the lace-edged towels draped over the shoulder or tied diagonally across the body.
This is a glorious, very colourful, and detailed illustration showing the extravagant lifestyle of noble families at that period.
It is hard to imagine now, but Christmas as we know it was not celebrated until the beginning of the 19th century. Even then many businesses did not consider it a holiday, but by the end of the century it had become the biggest annual celebration and took on the form that we recognise today. Most of the symbols that are connected to Christmas i.e the tree, crackers, christmas cards, the turkey dinner can be attributed to Queen Victoria and her marriage to the German born Prince Albert. As in the Très Riches Heures illustration above, gift giving traditionally used to take place at New Year.
The blue lunette shows the zodiac sign for Capricorn in the first half of the month and Aquarius in the second half. In the centre the chariot of the sun continues it's yearly cycle through the heavens.
February Très Riches Heures here.

34 comments:

  1. Truly an image, richly rewarding to look at, but also to reminisce, about what happened behind those scenes of richness, peasants kept as serfs of the masters of the time, incredible human suffering. Some of those families still own those illgotten riches. At least, some of the peoples have overcome, and there is a better chance at a good life for many, albeit not all. Not yet.

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    1. It really is worthy of reflection - do things change all that much? Recently in our news it has been highlighted how many people today are kept against their will in slavery whilst remaining unknown to the authorities. I suspect it is human nature - I always think that if you gave everyone the same amount of money at the beginning of the year then at the end most would have nothing left and a few would have it all.

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  2. This is a wonderful image, Rosemary, and well-timed for the New Year. The detail of the soldiers, the gifts, the food on the table, and all the costumes are amazing, but best of all is that incredible blue, particularly the lord's gorgeous robe. It just reminds me, we are devising our first trip to Italy this year, and I wonder if you have ever been to the Giotto chapel in Padua? It has always appealed to me and I wonder if it is worth the side trip from Venice. A great post to start 2014!

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    1. Dear Patricia - it was a lecture on the Arena Chapel that I attended, must be 30 years ago now, which set me off on my journey and love of the Italian Renaissance. It was my very first destination to visit in Italy the following year. So yes, definitely go and see it, and if you have the opportunity go that little bit further to Mantua - a treasure trove of works and architecture by Alberti, Mantegna, Donatello, and Rubens.
      Once you start exploring Italy, you will find that you need to return year after year after year.

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  3. That is very beautiful, such a lovely blue, and a great feast by the look of it.
    I think you have been waiting patiently for the New Year to post this :)

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    1. This completes the 10th month that I have shown of Les Très Riches Heures - only February and March to go, but it does fit in rather well for a New Years Day post.

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  4. i always love the stories behind the art works....thanks for sharing....i'm so glad i stumbled in!! Happy New Year, Rosemary---I look forward to visiting often!

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    1. Thank you for visiting Steph - look foward to hearing from you in 2014. A Happy New Year to you too.

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  5. We are back to stronger detail, having come around to January again. You are right, I much prefer this one to December. Very elaborate dress in that era. I love the trend for mismatched stockings!

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    1. It would be good fun if that became a modern day trend Jessica.

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  6. I look and look again, try to look deeper. Upon seeing the chariot, I thought that odd a chariot being in within the astrological circle. Now I know why.
    I knew about the christmas tree and other so called traditions introduced to us.. The orthodox consider the 6th to 7th their christmas.. we in the family have always celebrated the 6th.. with tiny little presents at the side of each plate. Not any more.. the family have grown and they have started their own traditions.
    The Epiphany.. Its amazing how religious men had influence over the populations..and still have today.
    I also noticed that there is an absence of women.! Very much a man's world , in the day of the kings.
    Here the giving of gifts is so very well predicted.
    A most fantastic tapestry.
    Thank you Rosemary. I will take another look ..

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    1. Dear Val - it is a pity that I cannot make these illustrated manuscripts any larger, but I do enjoy the way you take so much care over looking at all the details.
      You are right - the 15th century was definitely a man's world, in fact it is still today. The biggest changes for women have taken place during my life time. Women have never had it any better than they do now, but inequalities still do persist.
      I appreciate your thorough comment Val - thank you.

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  7. Dear Rosemary,

    This is by far my favorite of all the pages you've shared. I've enjoyed studying all the rich detail, from the tapestry, to the capitals, down to what appears to be a fiberous (straw cloth?) floor matting. Wouldn't it be fun to see what that red dog collar actually looked like?

    You might be interested to know that in the United States, from the earliest days of the republic — right up into the 20th Century — the doors of the White House would be opened on New Years Day so that anyone could go through a receiving line to shake hands with the President.

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    1. Dear Mark - I wish that it was possible to view this image in a larger format. I particularly like the golden fire screen with the smoke and flames rising behind it.
      The straw/rush matting is interesting. Many National Trust properties here use the same floor covering in their properties, particular those with Long Galleries. You may be interested to look at this YouTube video of Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire which will give you some idea of how it looks.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bguy34JQHys

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    2. Thanks for that link. It's so interesting to see an indoor matting that requires watering! I should think that doesn't do the floor any good, but I also suppose that the matting is thick enough so that the water doesn't go all the way through.

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    3. I think that you must be right about it not penetrating the matting as the floor beneath is wooden.

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  8. Dear Rosemary,what an interesting post!!This is a wonderful image for the New Year. I really like the details of this fantastic tapestry.Thank you for sharing!Wishing to you and your family,Happy New Year 2014,with joy and happiness!
    Dimi...

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    1. Dear Dimi - this is now the 10th post that I have done recording the months of the year as shown in Très Riches Heures. As you mention the January painting is very appropriate for the beginning of a new year. It would be lovely to be able to view the illuminated manuscript itself in order to study all of the fine details.

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  9. Hello Rosemary, Contrasting with the lavish feast in this vignette are reminders of the rough world it was really part of. In addition to the symbols of war you mention, we see that some of the guests are wearing swords and spurs, ready at a moment's notice to resume the fray.

    The scene reminds me of the famous garden scene of Assyria's King Ashurbanipal in the British Museum:
    http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/me/t/the_garden_party_relief.aspx

    Here we see the relaxed king enjoying an idyllic feast with lots of attendants, but on a nearby tree is the head of his vanquished enemy, reminding us of the power hierarchy, and hinting at the battles and spoils that made the feast possible.

    I guess both the Duc de Barry and Ashurbanipal were evoking the 'iron fist in the velvet glove', and speaking of which, I hope that everything is velvet for you and your family in 2014.
    --Jim

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    1. Dear Jim - before replying to your interesting comment I have just been viewing the famous garden scene of Assyria's King Ashurbanipal in the British Museum. Like the Très Riches Heures painting it would be lovely to be able to view a larger image. It is an interesting comparison, and one that I am now keen to see for myself - next time I am in London I shall make a point of finding it in the British Museum.
      Velvet sounds good for 2014 - I wish you a happy and healthy 2014 and thank you for all your encouraging and thought provoking comments.

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  10. Such a beautiful painting. Today, I've been living like a lord myself... I was brought gifts, birthday presents ;O) Happy New Year, Rosemary!

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    1. Dear Satu - so pleased that you have enjoyed a wonderful birthday today - I am pleased that you enjoyed seeing the January painting of the Très Riches Heures.

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  11. This is a verry lovely picture, it is a good beginning from a new year.
    Happy new year Rosemary.

    Greetings,
    Inge, my choice

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    1. Dear Inge - I was pleased when I discover how appropriate the January image was for New Years Day.
      I am pleased that you enjoyed seeing it. May 2014 be a happy and healthy year for you and your family.

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  12. An extraordinary painting with such interesting contents . A great story is told here and I love the bold colors and the richness of the scene. xx

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    1. When you consider that these were painted 600 years ago the colours, as you mention, are still so bold.

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  13. Ah this brings back memories Rosemary. My very last module was Renaissance Art which I loved. For one of my essays I had to visually analyse this image and write 3000 words about the characters, symbolism, clothes, the tapestry etc. I still cannot believe how they had the wherewithall to paint such magnificent images in an illuminated manuscript. Oh gosh I'm really missing that subject now. Thank you for this.
    Patricia x

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    1. Dear Patricia - I should have got you to write this post.
      I wonder if you have ever considered joining your local NADFAS - National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies - I am sure that you would enjoy the lectures and visits that they do - it is very good value for money as they use the top lecturers in the country. If you put NADFAS into Google you should be able to find out your nearest society, that is if you are interested.

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  14. A very Happy New Year Rosemary.

    I always learn from your posts. Thank you for the time and thought you put into your posts.
    Helen xx

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    1. Dear Helen - Thank you very much for your kind comment - wishing you happiness and good health in 2014.

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  15. Another fascinating image of 15th century life. I can just imagine from it how extravagant the Christmas celebrations were for the French nobility. I noticed at once that women were absent, too. I wonder where they were? Once again, the colours are very striking.

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    1. Dear Wendy - it definitely appears to be an occasion for men only. This month is particularly rich in colour. I have now almost completed the year with two more posts to go.

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  16. It's fascinating to see this wonderful illumination after having watched the fifth episode of Tudor Monastery Farm on hospitality. It enabled me to recognise that the two young men in front of the table are pages, charged with serving their lord and his guests at table. We can tell this by the lace-edged towels over the shoulder or tied diagonally across the body. :-)

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    1. Delighted to learn this information Perpetua - thank you - I haven't been watching that programme. I shall add what you have mentioned into the post.

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