Above: Details of illuminations from Folio 73v, Folio 80r, and Folio 91r from the 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).
It is a jolt to move from the Penitential Psalms, which were among the earliest pages to be painted, to the Institution of the Great Litany, one of the added picture-book cycles created when the Limbourg brothers were more fully developed as artists. The Great Litany was one of the last sections to be completed, and the illuminations represent the artists near the pinnacle of their powers of expressive narration. Here, in a single, inserted bifolium—one sheet of parchment folded to make four pages—we see a great drama of life, death, and faith played out. Read more »