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Belles Heures of Jean de France, duc de Berry, 1405–1408/9. Herman, Paul, and Jean de Limbourg (Franco-Netherlandish, active in France by 1399–1416). French; Made in Paris. Ink, tempera, and gold leaf on vellum; 9 3/8 x 6 5/8 in. (23.8 x 16.8 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Cloisters Collection, 1954 (54.1.1).
Hours of the Passion
Agony in the Garden, Folio 123r
Two moments are shown in one integrated landscape: Christ prays at left in the Garden of Gethsemane and is handed his cross by God. At right, Christ returns from prayer to his sleeping disciples: Peter with his hand near his sword; young John nestled against him; and James. Christ tenderly relates to his followers. This opening scene in the passion narrative is given a more elaborate border than the others.
Listen to a sample from the exhibition Audio Guide:
Audio Guide Transcript
Tom Campbell: In the background, against the red-patterned sky, Christ prays in the Garden of Gethsemane. Note the charming touches of everyday life: the fence made from woven saplings, and the little wooden bridge. In the foreground, Christ has left the garden, and has found his apostles sleeping. It’s an unusually tender interpretation, with Christ waking one of them with a gentle caress. The young John, in the center, snuggles into the large figure of Peter.
Timothy Husband: It’s a touching and intimate image and one of the most affecting in the entire manuscript.
Tom Campbell: This psychological intimacy made the Limbourg brothers among the more advanced artists of the time. But that intimacy is integrated into a scene using a much older narrative convention: showing two moments in time together.
Timothy Husband: It was an old-fashioned treatment, but it allowed the Limbourg brothers to convey what they really were interested in in the sequence of events, and that was the compassion of Christ for his apostles.