Simon Bening’s September

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book September (f. 26v and f. 27r),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/10/

Andrew Lang (1844-1912) is a famous Scottish poet who wrote a Ballade dedicated to the Royal Game of Golf…There are laddies will drive ye a ba’ / To the burn frae the farthermost tee, / But ye mauna think driving is a’, / Ye may heel her, and send her ajee, / Ye may land in the sand or the sea; / And ye’re dune, sir, ye’re no worth a preen, / Tak’ the word that an auld man’ll gie, / Tak’ aye tent to be up on the green! Simon Bening (d. 1561) is an equally celebrated Flemish artist who dedicated a manuscript illumination, f. 27r dedicated to the month of September, to the popular game of “Golf.” Let’s see what Simon Bening’s September page all is about! https://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poem/ballade-royal-game-golf/

Part of a very unique and special manuscript in the Collection of the British Library, known as the Golf Book, are two pages (f. 26v and f. 27r), dedicated to the month of September. Simon Bening, the manuscript’s illuminator, created two very different scenes. Folio  26v, for example, depicts typical agricultural activities of September like ploughing, sowing, and harrowing. Folio 27r, on the other hand, is about sports, specifically about men playing a game that closely resembles golf (hence the name given to this manuscript, the Golf Book). https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/10/

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, September (Detail f. 27r), c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=add_ms_24098_fs001r

As the British Library experts support… golf is not to everyone’s taste. Mark Twain, they explain, is accredited with describing the game as “a good walk spoiled”; and, like many sports, it’s arguably better fun to play, Twain believed, than to watch. So, what is the fuss with the game of “Golf” depicted in Folio 27r of the 16th century Flemish Manuscript splendidly illuminated in the city of Bruges by Simon Bening? https://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2013/05/a-good-walk-spoiled.html?_ga=2.181798823.1064566353.1657532469-1622143414.1655957049

At first sight, the British Library experts continue, we can certainly deduce that this game does resemble golf, even down to the cloth caps that some of the competitors are wearing. Simon Bening presents a fenced field, four competitors, three of which hold curled sticks, reminiscent of modern golf clubs, and three “golf” balls. Could the man that wears a green cloak, depicted gesticulating to his companion, be what we now call a caddie? Could the fifth man presented in the middle ground be a “golf” fan waiting at the door of the nineteenth hole for a round of beer? We will probably never know. For modern golf players the stance of the player on the right, in the orange-red jerkin, is all wrong as modern golfers play the game on their feet, rather than on their knees, both to get a better purchase on the ball and for better balance. Simon Bening presents us with a wonderful scene of a 16th-century golf-like game played with curled sticks and a leather ball. Could this be an early form of modern Golf? We will probably never know. https://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2013/05/a-good-walk-spoiled.html?_ga=2.181798823.1064566353.1657532469-1622143414.1655957049

For a PowerPoint on the  Golf Book, please… Check HERE!

Simon Bening’s August

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, August (f. 25v),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/10/

Like liquid gold the wheat field lies, / A marvel of yellow and russet and green, / That ripples and runs, that floats and flies, / With the subtle shadows, the change, the sheen… writes American poet Hannibal Hamlin Garland, and Simon Bening’s August scene comes to my mind… a scene of wheat fields like liquid gold and green countryside full of subtle shadows, change, and sheenhttps://sites.google.com/site/rainydaypoems/poems-for-kids/poems-teachers-ask-for/color-in-the-wheat-by-hamlin-garland

Simon Bening is a master manuscript illuminator. Hailed by Portuguese art critic and artist, Francisco da Hollanda as the greatest master of illumination in all of Europe, Simon Bening was one of the most celebrated painters of Flanders in the 1500s. He served powerful aristocrats and worked for a group of international royal patrons including Emperor Charles V and Don Fernando, the Infante of Portugal. He is famous for creating some of the finest illuminated Books of Hours in the history of art. His specialty was painting, in the Flemish tradition, poetic landscape vistas… just like the August scene in the famous Golf Book! https://www.getty.edu/art/collection/person/103JTN

The Month of August full-page miniature (f. 25v) is dedicated to distinct aspects of peasant occupations in the month of August. It is divided into three parts, the lower right one, leading the composition. Prominently posed, a pair of field hands are taking a break, their tools of labor lying on the ground, happily munching on some kind of food… waiting for more! A young woman is approaching them with a basket of more food balancing on top of her head, and a heavy, large carafe of a beverage held by her right hand. Behind a low fence made of wicker canes woven around stakes driven into the ground, a second peasant is still working hard in the field… bent, scythe in hand, cutting wheat.

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, August (Details, f. 25v), c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=add_ms_24098_fs001r

The left part of the composition is my favorite! Separated by a canal or river with swimming swans and a small bridge, Bening painted a country path along a hedged country estate of lush greenery. This is what the artist was famous for… images of unique landscapes in delicate brushwork and an extravaganza of green tints and shades. Never to forget that this is a composition dedicated to harvesting, Bening painted a path with a horse-drawn cart loaded with sheaves of straw going along it. https://www.moleiro.com/en/books-of-hours/the-golf-book-book-of-hours/miniatura/500e65cc826a5

The third, back part of Bening’s August page, is fully dedicated to Bening’s August theme… harvest, and the lush countryside. A fortress-like, gated area, equally plush and verdant, with an impressive church to the right, dominates the scene. In front of it, was another field of yellow, willowy wheat, and a peasant hard in harvesting. In the very distant, blue cloudless skies… the majesty of nature at its best…

For a PowerPoint on the  Golf Book, please… Check HERE!

For a Student Activity on Simon Bening’s July page, please… Check HERE!

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, August (f. 25v and 26r),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/10/

Simon Bening’s July

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, July (f. 24v),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/10/

Simon Bening’s July page presents, in painting, the ancient sport of falconry clearly, with elegance and poise… Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), with his poem Falconry, wonders, and questions A prince survives by unseen acts. / At night the chief advisor knocked / at Frederick’s workroom in the tower / and found him formulating facts / for treatises on wingèd power / while his penman turned out text.     /     It was in this aerie room / he’d walked all night with her on arm, / turbulent and barely fledged. / Whatever plans then sprang to mind, / whatever fondness deeply chimed / in recollection he would trash / and tend the frightened and impassioned / thing he wished to understand. / Every night he made a time / for nothing but the young unhandled / animal. It was her staring / inborn mind he’d worked to learn,     /     so he was lofted with her grace / when she, the bird that nobles praise, / thrown gleaming from his hand (her wingbeats raised / into the heartfelt morning air) / and diving like an angel struck the hernhttps://allpoetry.com/Falconry

The Book of Golf pages dedicated to the summer month of July present interesting events in the life of the Flemish Renaissance aristocracy and farming class.  The main full-page miniature painting (f. 24v) is dedicated to a popular aristocratic sport, that of hunting with falcons. The miniature, on the other hand, of folio 25recto given to July, is dedicated to farm work, particularly the transportation of hay with a cart. Interestingly, the background painting of folio 24verso is also reserved for farm work. It shows haymakers mowing a lush, green field. http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Add_MS_24098

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, July (Details, f. 24v and f. 25r), c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=add_ms_24098_fs001r
Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, July (Details, f. 24v), c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=add_ms_24098_fs001r

A nobleman on horseback is the main character in folio 24v of Bening’s Book of Golf. He is depicted with all the characteristics of a Flemish aristocrat. He wears a blue tunic with a square neckline, a high-necked, buttoned shirt underneath, and a noticeable gold chain around his neck. A feathered grey hat stylishly adorns his auburn features. A glove covers his right hand, and a falcon, possibly a peregrine falcon, is perched on the (metal glove) on his left hand. Finally, the aristocrat in Bening’s July page wears full-length hose and ankle boots. He is portrayed mounted on an equally imposing dark-grey stallion practicing falconry, the favourite pastime of the aristocracy.  All signs of nobility are present… elegant, and expensive attire, a beautiful horse, and the sport of falconry… here are the status symbols of high social, moral, and financial standing. If this is not enough… the pictured aristocrat is accompanied by two servants carrying falcon’s perches (tall staffs covered in soft fabric for birds to rest upon and for beating bushes and trees to make prey take flight) and also a hooded peregrine falcon and goshawk. https://www.moleiro.com/en/books-of-hours/the-golf-book-book-of-hours/miniatura/5034926fa3d32

I live my life in widening circles / that reach out across the world. / I may not complete this last one / but I give myself to it.     /     I circle around God, around the primordial tower. / I’ve been circling for thousands of years / and I still don’t know: am I a falcon, / a storm, or a great song? Wonders Rainer Maria Rilke once more… https://onbeing.org/poetry/widening-circles/

For a PowerPoint on the  Golf Book, please… Check HERE!

For a Student Activity on Simon Bening’s July page, please… Check HERE!

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, July (f. 24v and 25r),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/10/

Simon Bening’s June

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, June (f. 23v),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/11/

Simon Bening’s June presentation is part of an amazing, illuminated manuscript of the 16th century. It presents the quintessential games of chivalry… and I think of Gauvain Micaille, the gallant Frenchman squire from Beauce, a gentleman of tried courage, who had advanced himself by his own merit, without any assistance from others… Is there among you any gentleman who for the love of his lady is willing to try with me some feat of arms? He questions… If there should be any such, here I am, quite ready to sally forth completely armed and mounted, to tilt three courses with the lance, to give three blows with the battle-ax, and three strokes with the dagger. Now look, you English, if there be none among you in love… he continues, and he jousts for the honour of France showing his courage and bravery… an extraordinary man, a wonderful story, and a brilliant manuscript illumination by Simon Bening! https://uts.nipissingu.ca/muhlberger/FROISSART/GAUVAIN.HTM

Unhorse Your Foe! people cried… and off “they” went to “battle.” “They” were armored knights striding armored horses who tested their skills in mock combats, called “tournaments.” These games were a way for them to practice for battle in between wars, and display their talents in front of a broad audience… writes Rachel Smith, of the MET in New York. The June page of the Book of Golf (f. 23v) displays a perfect tournament day in a Flemish city. https://www.metmuseum.org/blogs/metkids/2019/knights-tournaments-medieval-europe and https://www.moleiro.com/en/books-of-hours/the-golf-book-book-of-hours/miniatura/161

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, June (Details, f. 23v and f. 24r), c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=add_ms_24098_fs001r

Simon Bening, combining cool, greys and blues, and warm tones of ochre and red, organized a “busy” three-parts composition. The background presents a Flemish city with impressive buildings and the tournament audience, in great numbers, enthusiastically looking at the event through windows, standing behind parapets, seated on tall parapets,  or sitting in the “royal box.” They seem to be finely dressed and adorned with elaborate headdresses, talking to each other, full of excitement… maybe contemplating, even debating whom they are going to favor!

The Knights, fully armored and crowned with striking plumes are depicted riding their equally remarkably armored horses. They “fight” for victory. Their goal is to show gallantry and honour… their hope is to attract the attention of “their” Lady and get a token of her favor… a veil, a ribbon, maybe a wreath!

The “busiest” part is definitely the foreground of Bening’s composition. Attended by their servants are two knights on their mounts attempting to strike the other down with their swords. Their broken lances lie on the ground. A mounted herald on the left sounds a small trumpet, whilst two armed riders on the right wait their turn to fight. https://www.moleiro.com/en/books-of-hours/the-golf-book-book-of-hours/miniatura/161

The middle ground area of June’s composition is where Jousting takes place. Simon Benning depicts two knights on either side of a palisade, ready for the tournament “game” to commence! They wear a full-length armor made of thin, sliding steel plates, over a velvet garment, a helmet, finished with plumes, and carry their battling lance. According to the Wikipedia… Jousting is a martial game or hastilude between two horsemen wielding lances with blunted tips, often as part of a tournament. The primary aim was to replicate a clash of heavy cavalry, with each participant trying hard to strike the opponent while riding towards him at high speed, breaking the lance on the opponent’s shield or jousting armor if possible, or unhorsing him. The joust became an iconic characteristic of the knight in Romantic medievalism. The participants experience close to three and a quarter times their body weight in G-forces when the lances collide with their armor.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jousting#CITEREFColtman1919

For a PowerPoint on the  Golf Book, please… Check HERE!

For information on the art of the armorer, and how arms and armor, are pivotal not only in conquest and defense but also in court pageantry and ceremonial events like tournaments… Check the Metropolitan Museum site… https://www.metmuseum.org/about-the-met/collection-areas/arms-and-armor

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, June (f. 23v and 24r),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/11/

Simon Bening’s May

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, May (f. 22v),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/11/

The American children’s poet Annette Wynne introduces us to charming spring with… May / Has such a winsome way, / Loves to love and laugh and play, / To be pretty all the day, / Never loves to sulk and frown, / As April does; when rain comes down, / May is sorry, says: “Rain, please / Go away soon, flowers and trees / Love the merry shining sun, / Want to laugh now, every one, / For the happy time’s begun.” / All you people who love play, / Love to love the livelong day, / Do you not love May / With her winsome way? The artist of the Golf Book, one of the finest manuscript illuminators of the Northern Renaissance introduces us to the month of May with an amazing miniature… Let’s celebrate with Simon Bening’s May…a day of boating, merriment, and joy! https://discoverpoetry.com/poems/may-poems/

Folio 22v of the Golf Book, showing the Month of May, is one of the most glorious pages Simon Bening, the renowned Flemish artist from the Netherlands, ever created. It is a characteristic Renaissance Maying scene in its depiction of a spring landscape (Bening is known for his landscapes), with green leaves, and branches of greenery… and much more! At first glance, it presents two distinctive scenes related to May Day and a glorious river-side cityscape background scene of fortification walls, several well-constructed secular buildings, and what seems like two impressive Gothic churches. It also includes an anecdotal scene of a small gate leading to the river and a young going down the gate steps leading to the river with a container in each hand, perhaps to fill them with water… so typical Flemish! http://www.digitalmedievalist.com/2004/05/01/its-may-2/ and https://www.moleiro.com/en/books-of-hours/the-golf-book-book-of-hours/miniatura/159

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, May (f. 22v, details),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/11/

The main scene, in the foreground of the composition, depicts a May Day boating trip along the local canals. In this scene, two boatmen, one at each end of the boat, are rowing a nobleman and two well-dressed ladies along a river, just about to glide under an impressive arched bridge. Enjoying the trip are a man dressed in a large, loose French gown with a sable collar, playing, appropriately I would add,  an ambiguous-looking wind instrument that could be a flute, and two women, dressed in gold-toned garments, one of whom plays the lute, equally appropriate for a female, with a plectrum. The boat is filled with flowering branches reminding the viewer that this is a May Day excursion indeed. https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/11/ and https://www.moleiro.com/en/books-of-hours/the-golf-book-book-of-hours/miniatura/159

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, May (f. 22v, detail),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/11/
Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, May (f. 22v, detail),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/11/

The middle ground scene focuses on the activity taking place on the bridge connecting the city to the riversides. Horses are depicted crossing the bridge, and Bening directs the attention of the viewer to an aristocratic couple, well-dressed, crowned with large, white flowers and carrying branches. They seem to be returning “home” after a day of merriment in the countryside. Were they part of the elegant group of riding aristocrats depicted strolling through the wood in the bas-de-page scene of folio 23r? It would have been interesting to know what Simon Bening thought! https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/11/

For a PowerPoint on the  Golf Book, please… Check HERE!

For references to Student Activities on Simon Bening’s May Day page, please… Check HERE!

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, May (f. 22v and 23r),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/11/

Holy Monday – Μεγάλη Δευτέρα

Vienna Genesis, The Pharaoh’s Banquet, folio 17, page 34, (Cod. Theol. gr. 31), first half of the 6th century, Illuminated Parchment dyed purple, heightening in shell gold, with a text written in silver ink, 32.0×26.5 cm, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna, Austria https://onb.digital/result/10F14EEA

On the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, he held a feast for all his officials, and in their presence, he lifted up the heads of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker. Pharaoh restored the chief cupbearer to his position, so that he once again placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.… (Book of Genesis, The story of Joseph, 40:20-22 – Holy Monday – Μεγάλη  Δευτέρα) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+40&version=NIV

Την τρίτη ημέρα λοιπόν, ο Φαραώ είχε τα γενέθλιά του και έκανε συμπόσιο για όλους τους υπηρέτες του και έφερε μπροστά τους τόσο τον αρχιοινοχόο όσο και τον αρχιαρτοποιό.  Και επανέφερε τον αρχιοινοχόο στη θέση που είχε ως οινοχόος, και εκείνος συνέχισε να δίνει το ποτήρι στον Φαραώ.  Τον αρχιαρτοποιό όμως τον κρέμασε, ακριβώς όπως τους είχε δώσει την ερμηνεία ο Ιωσήφ. (Γένεση, Η Ιστορία του Ιωσήφ, 40:20-22- Holy Monday – Μεγάλη  Δευτέρα) https://www.jw.org/el/%CE%B2%CE%B9%CE%B2%CE%BB%CE%B9%CE%BF%CE%B8%CE%AE%CE%BA%CE%B7/%CE%B1%CE%B3%CE%AF%CE%B1-%CE%B3%CF%81%CE%B1%CF%86%CE%AE-online/nwt/%CE%B2%CE%B9%CE%B2%CE%BB%CE%AF%CE%B1/%CE%93%CE%AD%CE%BD%CE%B5%CF%83%CE%B7/40/

Vienna Genesis, The Pharaoh’s Banquet, folio 17, page 34, (Cod. Theol. gr. 31), first half of the 6th century, Illuminated Parchment dyed purple, heightening in shell gold, with a text written in silver ink, 32.0×26.5 cm, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna, Austria https://onb.digital/result/10F14EEA

Andreas Fingernagel, Director of the Department of Manuscripts and Rare Books

at the Austrian National Library, considers the Late Antique Codex theologicus graecus 31, the Vienna Genesis as of outstanding importance, an illuminated manuscript regarded and admired as a rare testimony of Late Antique art history. The manuscript, dated to the first half of the 6th century, consists of 48 preserved pages, written in Maiuscula Biblica in silver ink on purple parchment. It is illustrated with 48 miniatures produced in a city scriptorium of culture and sophistication like Antioch or Constantinople. It is one of the earliest known cycles of book miniatures from the Old Testament, a rare witness of Late Antique book culture. Since 1664, this magnificent codex has been preserved at the Imperial Court Library, today, the Austrian National Library in Vienna. https://library.oapen.org/handle/20.500.12657/41206

Vienna Genesis, The Pharaoh’s Banquet (detail), folio 17, page 34, (Cod. Theol. gr. 31), first half of the 6th century, Illuminated Parchment dyed purple, heightening in shell gold, with a text written in silver ink, 32.0×26.5 cm, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna, Austria https://onb.digital/result/10F14EEA

According to research done in the early 2020s, the Vienna Genesis is the incredible work of 7 different artists. Scholars came to this conclusion, by looking into each artist’s style, iconography, colour palette, pigments, and dyes. All artists involved in the illumination of the Vienna Genesis were trained in creating rich, and lively paintings in an authentic Late Antique style, suited for the sophisticated liking of an imperial patron.  Painter E (folios 17–18, pages 33–36) has been identified as the artist who created the amazing miniature (folio 17, page 34) depicting The Pharaoh’s Birthday Banquet. This is a scene in the story of Joseph, son of Jacob and Rachel, celebrated during Holy Monday. https://library.oapen.org/handle/20.500.12657/41206 pp. 232-235 and Age of Spirituality: Late Antique and Early Christian Art, Third to Seventh Century https://www.metmuseum.org/art/metpublications/Age_of_Spirituality_Late_Antique_and_Early_Christian_Art_Third_to_Seventh_Century pp. 458-459

The Österreichische Nationalbibliothek of Vienna Digital Copy of the Vienna Genesis… Check https://onb.digital/search/324304

A PowerPoint of all artworks presented for the Holy Week in the Greek Orthodox Church, 2022… is HERE!

Simon Bening’s April

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, April (f. 21v),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/11/

Praise the spells and bless the charms, / I found April in my arms. / April golden, April cloudy, / Gracious, cruel, tender, rowdy; / April soft in flowered languor, / April cold with sudden anger, / Ever changing, ever true — / I love April, I love you…wrote Ogden Nash (1902 – 1971), the 20th-century American writer of humorous poetry! Could Simon Bening’s Calendar page for the Month of April be an example of a Renaissance April Love? https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/always-marry-an-april-girl/

Folio 21verso of Simon Bening’s Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, is dedicated to the Month of April and exhibits a magnificent scene of Renaissance courtship! It all takes place in a beautiful garden, possibly in a town, surrounded by a low fence containing three trees, whose crowns are rather sparse because of their recent blossoming, grass, flowers, and a hexagonal fountain topped by a bronze-colour statue of a discreet Venus pouring water into a hollow in the garden, where a dog drinks. Simon Bening, the inventive painter of the Book of Golf presents the viewer with a detailed vista of impressive Flemish buildings, a magnificent Italianate colonnaded tower, and a lovely vignette… of a pair of storks nesting on a chimney, one of them flying over it. The scene, apart from the courting couple, is quite busy with a lady strolling about the garden alone… a couple of sweethearts talking and a man with a falcon perched on his left hand. In the foreground of the composition, Bening painted a boy, picking up flowers, and a young girl stretching her hands out towards the water, enjoying a crisp day of Spring. https://www.moleiro.com/en/books-of-hours/the-golf-book-book-of-hours/miniatura/603

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, April (Details, f. 21v),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=add_ms_24098_fs001r

The protagonists of Bening’s April arrangement, depicted in the center of the composition, outshine everything else! The young Lady, beautifully dressed in the latest of 16th-century fashion, wears a loose-fitting blue gown, revealing a red petticoat underneath when raised, with a wide, square neckline with a white ruff (a large round collar of intricately pleated muslin).  She demurely gives her left hand to a gentleman, even more impressively dressed, who sits on the edge of the fountain, holding with his right hand a hooded falcon, and leaning towards her. The depicted man seems older than his mistress. He wears French garb consisting of a square-necked gown over a fastened shirt with a high, ruffled-edge collar, a skullcap (close-fitting cap), and a hat, long, dark-coloured hose, a very short type of footwear that appeared in the last quarter of the 15th century, and, hanging from his belt, an impressive, long sword. https://www.moleiro.com/en/books-of-hours/the-golf-book-book-of-hours/miniatura/603

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, April (Detail f. 21v),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=add_ms_24098_fs001r

This is an elegant scene of courtship between members of the aristocratic society. A romantic scene of a couple emotionally and socially attached is a symbol of a tacit agreement of commitment between the two persons. What I like most in Bening’s April scene is how the young Lady lowers her eyes shyly while her gallant suitor looks at her…amorously smiling! What a scene! https://www.moleiro.com/en/books-of-hours/the-golf-book-book-of-hours/miniatura/603

For a PowerPoint on the  Golf Book, please… Check HERE!

For a Student Activity on Simon Bening’s April Page, please… Check HERE!

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, April (f. 22r),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/11/
Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, April (f. 21v and 22r),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/11/

Simon Bening’s March

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, March (f. 20v and 21r),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/11/

Never mind, March, we know / When you blow / You’re not really mad / Or angry or bad; / You’re only blowing the winter away / To get the world ready for April and May… writes Annette Wynne… just as in Simon Bening’s March Page preparations for Spring are in order! What a magnificent scene… an introductory full-page miniature showing the agricultural labours associated with the beginning of the agricultural season. https://discoverpoetry.com/poems/march-poems/ and https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/11/

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, March (f. 20v),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/11/

The main miniature on f. 20v of the Golf Book by Simon Bening, shows, in the foreground, an organized, enclosed Medieval Garden. The depicted labourer, a neatly dressed peasant, is presented to stop digging and to dock his cap to an aristocratic lady who gestures eloquently and energetically to him with her left hand as if she is instructing him on what his gardening chores should be. Followed by her lady-in-waiting the “principal” female figure of the composition is quite impressively dressed in a tunic with a fur collar and wide sleeves with a small, white dog in her right hand. Even her companion/maid is beautifully groomed in a dress with a generous neckline that is straight across the lower edge and covered by a high ruff of thick fabric. This is a lovely introductory scene to medieval gardening and the importance of medicinal plants for the people of the Middle Ages. https://www.moleiro.com/en/books-of-hours/the-golf-book-book-of-hours/miniatura/158

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, March (f. 20v) (detail),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=add_ms_24098_fs001r

What I find particularly interesting about this composition, is the depicted garden or orchard – possibly containing medicinal herbs and vegetables – that Bening depicted in the left forward part of his March verso page composition. For my students, the March page is a perfect opportunity to discuss Gardening during the Middle Ages, the importance of herbal or medicinal gardens, and how they are depicted in art. A fascinating book to read, beautifully illustrated is Sweet Herbs and Sundry Flowers: Medieval Gardens and the Gardens of The Cloisters by Tania Bayard, which I use for a Student Activity… HERE! https://www.metmuseum.org/art/metpublications/Sweet_Herbs_and_Sundry_Flowers_Medieval_Gardens_and_the_Gardens_of_The_Cloisters

For a PowerPoint on the  Golf Book, please… Check HERE!

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, March (f. 20v and 21r) (details),c. 1540, 30 Parchment leaves on paper mounts, bound into a codex, 110 x 80 mm (text space: 85 x 60 mm), British Library, London, UK
http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=add_ms_24098_fs001r

The Joshua Roll

The Joshua Roll, 10th century, Tempera and gold on vellum, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, MS Pal. gr. 431, Vatican City

When I think of Byzantine Manuscripts, the first one that comes to my mind is the Joshua Roll… unique, luxurious and remarkable in every aspect… Hellenistic in spirit!

Dated in the 10th century, this Macedonian Renaissance illuminated manuscript comes to us in a very rare format, a Roll… 31 cm high and about 10 meters long, one of the most priceless treasures in the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana. The master artist of the Joshua Roll is unknown, but he definitely belonged to a selected group of Constantinopolitan painters trained in a style much influenced by the classicizing tradition prevailing in the Imperial Court of the time.

The Joshua Roll is dedicated to the Old Testament Book of Joshua. Although incomplete, as it starts with Chapter II and ends with Chapter X, it presents the most important adventures and military accomplishments of the great Israelite figurehead. Joshua was originally Moses’ assistant and after his death, the leader of the Israelite tribes, leading them in conquering the promised land of Canaan. When the Joshua Roll was created, the Byzantines were, after a long period of defence, able to successfully campaign in the Holy Land, enjoying decisive victories. Scholars believe that the illuminated manuscript was meant to glorify the military success of the Byzantine army, and exalt their Emperor.

The Joshua Roll is a very unique Codex, unparalleled and unrivalled in the whole world… yet enigmatic! The Bibliography of the Joshua Roll is extensive and challenging. In 2012 another volume was added – Wander, Steven H. The Joshua Roll. Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2012. pp. 224. ISBN: 978-389-5008-542 – where information of interest and controversy was added to the already extensive arguments. Wander “dates the manuscript to 961 and connects it to the patronage of the powerful middle Byzantine eunuch, courtier, and illegitimate son of Emperor Romanos I Lekapenos (r. 920-944), Basil the Parakoimomenos (chamberlain) (c. 925-c. 985).” Wander takes his controversial interpretation one step further, he “proposes that the Joshua Roll was the study for a small-scale triumphal column that would have commemorated Basil’s military success in the East during the reign of Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos (r. 945-959).” His arguments, important and novel, challenge long-standing assumptions. (Wander, Steven H. The Joshua Roll. Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2012. pp. 224. ISBN: 978-389-5008-542 (hardback) and an interesting review https://scholarworks.iu.edu/journals/index.php/tmr/article/view/20003

…and the Joshua fresco from the Hosios Loukas Monastery
https://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/digital/collection/CivilizationHamblin/id/1892/

My favourite assumption is the Roll’s connection to monumental art, and more specifically the art of wall painting. There is a striking connection to a recently discovered fresco in the church of Hosios Loukas in Phocis, and the extraordinary fresco Marian Cycle of the church of Santa Maria Foris Portas a Castelseprio, dazzling its viewers today as it did in 1944 when they were discovered! The similarities between the Joshua Roll illuminations and the Castelseprio frescoes are long-standing, as they are both considered the products of a common artistic tradition. (On Hosios Loukas and the Joshua Roll: Carolyn L. Connor, “Hosios Loukas as a Victory Church,” Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 33, no. 3 (1992): 293-308, esp. 304-305 and on Castelseprio: Kurt Weitzmann, The Fresco Cycle of S. Maria di Castelseprio, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1951)

Santa Maria Di Castelseprio Photos
https://cartesensibili.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/mete-di-viaggio-raffaella-terribile-un-piccolo-scrigno-riscoperto-santa-maria-foris-portas-a-castelseprio/

Coming back to my original statement, the Joshua Roll is… unique, luxurious and remarkable in every aspect and so much so Hellenistic in spirit! The Byzantium I love!

For a Full Digital Fascimile of the Manuscript, please check the site of the Vatican Library: https://digi.vatlib.it/view/MSS_Pal.gr.431.pt.B

For a Joshua Roll Student Activity… check HERE!

The Limbourg Brothers… and the 1st of May

The Limbourg Brothers are among my favorite artists! The month of May in “Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry,” the manuscript, is another favorite.

A merry group of horse-riding men and women, wearing their finest garments, May wreaths on their heads, attended by servants and entertained by musicians, this group of elegant aristocrats depicts, according to the Limbourg brothers, a May pageant. In the center of the composition, a young woman, maybe Joan II, Countess of Auvergne and Boulogne, on a white horse, is dressed in a rich traditional green garment, known at the time as “ livrée de Mai.” In front of her, with his back to the viewer, is the Duc de Berry, impressive in his gold-embroidered blue robe, is depicted turning and talking to his bride-to-be.

Paul Limbourg, the probable painter of this page, organized his composition in three levels. The Duke’s entourage occupies the first level displaying vibrant colors, subtle movement and wealth. The second level, a deep, green forest, along with two indications of shrubbery in the very front of the picture, creates an alcove of tranquility, serenity and a sense of safety for the group of aristocrats to continue. Finally, the third level, rendered in lapis lazuli blue, indicates the possible location of this event. The rooftops of Hôtel de Neslé, the Conciergerie and the Tour de l’Horloge in the Isle de la Cité tell us we are in Paris, it’s the 1st of May and it’s time to celebrate!

Herman, Paul, and Johan Limbourg, c. 1385 – 1416

Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, the month of May page, c. 1412-1416, manuscript illumination on vellum, 30 cm in height by 21.5 cm, Musée Condé, Chantilly, France

For more information, please check http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/famous-paintings/tres-riches-heures-duc-de-berry.htmhttps://artsandculture.google.com/asset/tr%C3%A8s-riches-heures-du-duc-de-berry-mois-de-mai/VgFhrcA2WNZh6A and https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/tr%C3%A8s-riches-heures-du-duc-de-berry-mois-de-mai/VgFhrcA2WNZh6A

For a Student Activity Worksheet … Click HERE!

For a Picture (Wikimedia Public Domain) … Click HERE!