Works and Days: The Medieval Year » Aquarius, from the Belles Heures

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Aquarius, from the Belles Heures

Emblematic of the zodiacal sign of Aquarius, a male figure clad only in a loincloth tips a full vessel of water borne on his shoulder and spills it on the ground. As Timothy Husband observes, the copious flow of water in this frame is in counterpoise to the full cup and the empty cup and vessel depicted in the frame at the top of the page (The Art of Illumination: The Limbourg Brothers and the Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry, 2008).

The image of a young male emptying a water jug or jugs is the most frequently used representation of Aquarius in the Middle Ages. In the ancient world, Aquarius was identified with Ganymede, the cup bearer to the gods.

According to St. Isidore, the names Aquarius and Pisces were given to those signs because the greatest downpours of rain occur when the sun traverses them (Teresa Pèrez-Higuera, Medieval Calendars, 1998).

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