Posts Tagged ‘book of hours’

Friday, December 10, 2010

December’s Labors

Psalter and Hours of Bonne of Luxembourg, Duchess of Normandy
December Labor: Killing Boar

December Labor: Cutting Firewood

The calendar pages of medieval Books of Hours were embellished with illuminations depicting the traditional labors or activities associated with the month. Above, two folios showing the activities for December, from the Psalter and Hours of Bonne of Luxembourg, Duchess of Normandy. The Cloisters Collection, 1969. (69.86). (See the Collection Database to learn more about this work of art.) In the detail shown in the center, a man prepares to deal the death stroke to a boar; the detail on the right shows a man cutting firewood with an ax. (The cutting and gathering of firewood is a minor labor, sometimes shown as a late autumn or early winter activity.)

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Pruning the Vine

March activity March activity from the Belles Heures jde_aries_150

Above, from left to right: Detail of the activity for the month from the March calendar page of The Hours of Jeanne d’Évreux, ca. 1324–28; detail of the activity for March from the Belles Heures of Jean of France, duc de Berry, 1405–1408/1409; detail of the zodiacal symbol Aries from The Hours of Jeanne d’Évreux. See the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History to learn more about manuscript illumination in Northern Europe, or see special exhibitions for information about the exhibition “The Art of Illumination: The Limbourg Brothers and the Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry” (on view at the Main Building March 2 through June 13, 2010).

The month of March marked the return to work in the fields for the medieval peasant, and the pruning, cultivation, and manuring of the vines was the first task of the agricultural year—these essential chores constitute the activity almost always chosen to represent March in medieval calendars. (The spring ploughing of the fields might be shown instead in books of hours made in locales where wine was not produced.) Read more »

Friday, February 19, 2010

Getting Warm

February Activity page from The Hours of Jeanne d'Évreux february-calendar_activity_bh_150 february-calendar_pisces_150

Above, from left to right: Detail of the activity for the month from the February calendar page of  The Hours of Jeanne d’Évreux, ca. 1324–28; detail of the activity for February from the Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry, 1405–1408/1409; detail of the zodiacal symbol Pisces from The Hours of Jeanne d’Évreux. See the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History to learn more about manuscript illumination in Northern Europe, or see special exhibitions for information about the exhibition “The Art of Illumination: The Limbourg Brothers and the Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry” (on view at the Main Building March 2 through June 13, 2010).

In the medieval calendar tradition, the month of February is frequently represented by a solitary male figure seated before a fire; he may or may not be cooking his meal as he warms himself. A table set with a few dishes is sometimes placed by the fire, a variant on the theme of feasting common to both January and February. (See “The January Feast,” January 15, 2010). Read more »

Friday, January 15, 2010

The January Feast

jeanne-devreux-january_150 top-detail_150 dp102939_150

Above, from left to right: Detail of the January calendar page from The Hours of Jeanne d’Évreux, ca. 1324–28; detail of the activity for the month of January from The Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry, 1405–1408/1409; Ewer with Wild Man Finial (detail), late 15th century, German, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Cloisters Collection, 1953 (53.20.2).

In the Middle Ages, the  Christian liturgical year, and not the old Roman calendar, determined the date on which the new year began. The date used differed depending on the period and locale, and coincided with either the Nativity on December 25 or the Annunciation on March 25. However, throughout the Middle Ages, the ancient Roman tradition of January festivities in celebration of the New Year continued unabated. Banquets and gifts were given, and folk rites intended to ensure good fortune and plenty and to stave off disaster and want were performed. The Church discouraged such practices, but found the celebration of the New Year more difficult to suppress than any other calendar tradition inherited from pagan antiquity. Read more »