Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry

Limbourg Brothers, Herman, Jean, Paul, c. 1370-80-1416         
Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, Anatomical Man/Zodiac Man (folio 14v), 1413-16, Painting on Vellum, 30×21 cm, Museum Conde, Chantilly, France https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Anatomical_Man.jpg

The Limbourg Brothers were a trio of Dutch Renaissance painters: Herman, Paul, and Johan Limbourg from Nijmegen. They are most famous for their work on the illuminated manuscript Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (The Very Rich Hours of the Duke of Berry), which they created in the early 15th century. This manuscript is considered one of the masterpieces of French International Gothic Art. The brothers were known for their meticulous attention to detail and their ability to capture the richness of color and texture in their work. Unfortunately, their careers were cut short when they died at a young age, possibly due to the bubonic plague. Despite their short lives, their contributions to art and illumination continue to be celebrated and studied today.

Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry is an exquisite, illuminated manuscript that stands as a masterpiece of artistry and cultural heritage. Commissioned by Jean de Valois (1340-1416), Duc de Berry, in the early 15th century, between c. 1412 and 1416, this lavishly decorated Book of Hours captures the essence of the era’s religious devotion, aristocratic splendor, and the beauty of the natural world. Created by the Limbourg brothers, but never completed, it showcases their unparalleled skill in miniature painting, with each page a vibrant tapestry of intricate details and vivid colors. Beyond its artistic magnificence, the manuscript serves as a window into the opulent lifestyle and spiritual fervor of the medieval French court, making it a treasured relic of both artistic and historical significance.

An anonymous painter, widely speculated by art historians to be Barthélemy d’Eyck, undertook further embellishments for the unfinished manuscript in the 1440s. Subsequently, between 1485 and 1489, the manuscript underwent significant modifications by the painter Jean Colombe, acting on behalf of the Duke of Savoy, ultimately achieving its present state. Following its acquisition by the Duc d’Aumale in 1856, the book now resides as MS 65 in the Musée Condé, located in Chantilly, France.

This amazing manuscript is a collection of prayers to be said at the canonical hours. It contains a rich assortment of religious texts, prayers, and beautifully illustrated scenes depicting the liturgical calendar and the life of Christ. Its pages feature elaborate depictions of saints, biblical events, the months of the year, and scenes from everyday life, meticulously crafted with intricate details and vibrant colors. Additionally, the manuscript includes annotations, psalms, and devotional readings tailored for personal prayer and reflection. Beyond its religious content, the manuscript also offers glimpses into the aristocratic life, and the life of the peasants, of the time, with illustrations of courtly gatherings, hunting scenes, idyllic landscapes, and peasant chords. Each page is a testament to the skill of the Limbourg brothers and their mastery of the art of illumination, making it a captivating blend of religious devotion, artistic excellence, and historical insight.

Folio 14v, the manuscript’s page presenting the Anatomical or Zodiac Man, is a rare motif in medieval art, an elusive miniature, a unique iconography, and a riddle for all scholars involved in interpreting its meaning. Folio 14v is my personal favourite!

Against a backdrop of magnificent blue skies adorned with golden clouds, two naked men stand back-to-back at the center of the mandola-shaped composition. Within the body frame of the human figure facing the viewer, the manuscript artists present the twelve Signs of the Zodiac. Each Sign, meticulously arranged and governing a specific part of the body, is steeped in the medieval belief— a Hellenistic inheritance, to be precise— in astrological medicine. This belief posited that the movements of celestial bodies influenced health and bodily functions. The second figure, as presented by the Limbourgs, is the most enigmatic aspect of the composition. Seen from the back in a mirror-like reflection, this figure starkly contrasts with the first. Not adorned with Zodiacal Signs, he possesses auburn hair, and his arms are positioned differently. Together, they remain open to interpretation, lacking a definitive explanation.

Limbourg Brothers, Herman, Jean, Paul, c. 1370-80-1416         
Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, Anatomical Man/Zodiac Man (detail), 1413-16, Painting on Vellum, 30×21 cm, Museum Conde, Chantilly, France
https://utpictura18.univ-amu.fr/notice/19788-homme-anatomique-tres-riches-heures-duc-berry-limbourg

The Anatomical or Zodiac Man is framed by three mandola-shaped bands. The outermost band corresponds to the 360 degrees of the circle of heavens, scaled and sub-divided into twelve thirty-degree sectors, each corresponding to one zodiacal constellation. The inner band marks the days of each month for the entire year. The calibrations are precisely synchronized so that each month spans the interval from the exact mid-point of one sign to that of its successor. https://www.jstor.org/stable/750460?read-now=1&seq=4#page_scan_tab_contents Harry Bober The Zodiacal Miniature of the Très Riches Heures of the Duke of Berry: Its Sources and Meaning Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, Vol. 11 (1948), pp. 1-34 (45 pages)

Within the outer bands, which are narrow in size, the Limbourg brothers positioned a wider band, beautifully adorned in green, blue, and gold, where a second set of the twelve Zodiac Signs is shown. Meticulously rendered, each Sign highlights the Limbourg brothers’ mastery of detail and design. The mandola shape of the band is further accentuated by the incorporation of the Zodiac Signs within similarly mandola-shaped designs. Together, they enrich the folio’s aesthetic appeal, contributing to a harmonious visual balance that complements the central figure’s anatomical depiction. Through this carefully crafted frame, the manuscript not only presents scientific knowledge but also elevates it to an aesthetic realm, inviting viewers to explore the interconnectedness of earthly and celestial phenomena.

In a captivating display of detail, the illumination’s apexes are adorned with the heraldic symbols representing the Duke of Berry, lending an air of regal splendor to the manuscript’s margins. Positioned alongside these symbols are four Latin inscriptions, each describing the characteristics attributed to the Zodiac Signs based on their complexions, temperaments, and cardinal points. In the upper left, Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius are depicted as fervently warm and dry, imbued with the fiery essence of the choleric temperament, and bearing the masculine energy of the East. Meanwhile, the upper right unveils Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn, enveloped in a cold and dry temperament, steeped in melancholy, and embracing the feminine allure of the Western realm. Descending to the lower left quadrant, Gemini, Aquarius, and Libra emerge with a vibrant warmth and humidity, embodying the sanguine spirit, and exuding the masculine vigor of the Southern domain. Finally, the lower right quadrant unveils Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces, cloaked in a chilly dampness, embodying the phlegmatic essence, and emanating the tranquil femininity of the Northern expanse. This interplay of symbolism and description not only enriches the visual tapestry but also invites contemplation on the interconnectedness of celestial forces and human attributes.

The depiction of the Anatomical or Zodiac Man in the Limbourg brothers’ manuscript Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry exudes a captivating aesthetic that seamlessly intertwines scientific inquiry with artistic mastery. Positioned within the intricate framework of medieval illumination, the figure emerges as a harmonious blend of anatomical precision and symbolic richness. Each rendered detail, from the delicate lines delineating the body’s proportions to the illustrated Zodiac Signs, invites contemplation and admiration. The vibrant hues of the illuminations, delicately applied gold leaf, and intricate patterns that adorn the margins further enhance the visual allure, drawing the viewer into a mesmerizing exploration of the human form and its cosmic connections. This fusion of artistic technique and intellectual curiosity epitomizes the manuscript’s exquisite aesthetic, offering a window into both the scientific knowledge and artistic sensibilities of the era.

For a PowerPoint Presentation on the Limbourg Brothers, please… Check HERE!

Bibliography: https://les-tres-riches-heures.chateaudechantilly.fr/ and https://www.jstor.org/stable/750460?read-now=1&seq=4#page_scan_tab_contents

Simon Bening’s December

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book December (f. 29v), 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/

Last, for December, houses on the plain,  /  Ground-floors to live in, logs heaped mountain-high,  /  And carpets stretched, and newest games to try,  /  And torches lit, and gifts from man to man  /  (Your host, a drunkard and a Catalan);  /  And whole dead pigs, and cunning cooks to ply  /  Each throat with tit-bits that shall satisfy;  /  And wine-butts of Saint Galganus’ brave span.  /  And be your coats well-lined and tightly bound,  /  And wrap yourselves in cloaks of strength and weight,  /  With gallant hoods to put your faces through.  /  And make your game of abject vagabond  /  Abandoned miserable reprobate  /  Misers; don’t let them have a chance with you. My new BLOG POST, Simon Bening’s December starts with a sonnet by Folgore Da San Geminiano (c. 1250-1317), translated by Dante Gabriel Rossetti in his book “Dante and His Circle,” (Roberts Brothers, Boston, 1893).     http://www.sonnets.org/folgore.htm

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, December (f. 29v and f. 30r), 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 16th-century Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, is a very unique and special manuscript in the Collection of the British Library. Unfortunately, the Golf Book is not, in its present state, a complete manuscript as most of the text is now missing. Thirty parchment leaves, however, remain, twenty-one pages of which, are full-page miniatures, in colours and gold, surrounded by a historiated border (12 pages are part of the Calendar section). The remaining forty pages feature historiated borders as well, that incorporate medallions, architectonic decoration, and cameos in grisaille and semi-grisaille. The text pages present large and small initials and line-fillers, in colours and gold. Simon Bening (d. 1561), with the assistance of his workshop, was the artist from Bruges responsible for this amazing manuscript. Bening’s accomplishments will feature in the Month of February Presentation. http://searcharchives.bl.uk/primo_library/libweb/action/dlDisplay.do?docId=IAMS032-002031376&fn=permalink&vid=IAMS_VU2

December is the Month to celebrate the Birth of Christ, it is also preparation time for the festivities that are about to begin! Simon Bening’s December (f. 29v) page introduces the viewer to a composition depicting the December Labours of the Month.

The painting’s December scene takes place in the courtyard of a country estate between two separate buildings. The estate, neatly fenced, extends to the hills in the background where two gentlemen with their huntsmen can be seen in the background setting off to hunt a stag being hounded in the top part by a pack of dogs. Further in the background, a church’s spire indicates the presence of a Flemish village. https://www.moleiro.com/en/books-of-hours/the-golf-book-book-of-hours/miniatura/167

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, December (Details, f. 29v), 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, December (Detail, f. 29v), 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 foreground of the composition depicts a slaughterman pinning an animal down with his right knee whilst slitting its throat and moving its leg to make its blood flow quickly into the skillet held by a female assistant. Behind them, preparation for baking bread is underway. To the right, a woman kneads bread dough in a large well-constructed trough. To the left side of the composition, a woman breaks branches of firewood with her hands to feed the fire of the oven where bread was baked, two loaves are ready and resting on a wooden bench. It is obvious more baking will take place, as a peasant harries up bringing four more loaves on top of a wooden try. This is a scene full of energy and anticipation… for the aristocracy and the depicted peasants days of festivities and feasting are about to come… for the depicted magpie perched on the estate’s fence, anticipation will end very soon.. the peasants will soon finish their jobs and he will be able to taste the leftovers of their labours.

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

Simon Bening’s November

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book November (f. 28v), 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/

I like spring, but it is too young. I like summer, but it is too proud. So I like best of all autumn, because its leaves are a little yellow, its tone mellower, its colours richer, and it is tinged a little with sorrow and a premonition of death. Its golden richness speaks not of the innocence of spring, nor of the power of summer, but of the mellowness and kindly wisdom of approaching age. It knows the limitations of life and is content. From a knowledge of those limitations and its richness of experience emerges a symphony of colours, richer than all, its green speaking of life and strength, its orange speaking of golden content and its purple of resignation and death… writes Lin Yutang (1895-1976) in  My Country and My People. Do we see sorrow and a premonition in Simon Bening’s November page? https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/123171-i-like-spring-but-it-is-too-young-i-like

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book November (f. 28v and f. 29r), 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, combining autumnal tones of cool, greys and blues, and warm ochre and reds, organized a “busy” three parts composition. The background sets the tone! Outside a well-tended, fenced farm, the Flemish countryside turns to winter. The land has been harvested, and the tall (poplar?) trees are thinning out, dropping their leaves. The sky is clear, but the birds fly low, suggesting a change in the weather. The middle ground of folio 28verso is my favourite. The depicted Flemish farm is bustling with activity! Peasants, male and female, can be seen feeding their chickens and pigs, while laborers are busy preparing the farm’s buildings for winter!

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book November (f. 28v and f. 29r, 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/10/

While the farmers are shown busy with various activities, the scene in the foreground of folio 28verso, the return of the group of hunters, presents the aristocratic activity of hunting. The portrayed nobleman, in the center of the foreground area, dominates the composition. Riding his auburn mount, wearing gloves and carrying a fine javelin or thin whip in his left hand, he gallops next to a white horse, that carries the trophy of the day, a magnificently antlered stag. The two horses and their “riders” are flanked by the servants who must have hounded and attacked the “trophy” animal. The servant in front, the master of the hunt, with a spear leaning on his left shoulder and a large, sheathed knife hanging from one side of his belt and a hunting horn hanging from the other, holds the leashes of two whippets. The only visible part of the servant at the back of the group is the lance leaning on his right shoulder. They are followed by two pairs of dogs. The full-page miniature scene for November is dedicated to Hunting which takes center stage! https://www.moleiro.com/en/books-of-hours/the-golf-book-book-of-hours/miniatura/166

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, November (Detail, f. 28v), 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://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=add_ms_24098_fs001r

The 16th-century Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, is a very unique and special manuscript in the Collection of the British Library. Unfortunately, the Golf Book is not, in its present state, a complete manuscript as most of the text is now missing. Thirty parchment leaves, however, remain, twenty one pages of which, are full-page miniatures, in colours and gold, surrounded by a historiated border (12 pages are part of the Calendar section). The remaining forty pages feature historiated borders as well, that incorporate medallions, architectonic decoration, and cameos in grisaille and semi-grisaille. The text pages present large and small initials and line-fillers, in colours and gold. Simon Bening (d. 1561), with the assistance of his workshop, was the artist from Bruges responsible for this amazing manuscript. Bening’s accomplishments will feature in the Month of February Presentation.  http://searcharchives.bl.uk/primo_library/libweb/action/dlDisplay.do?docId=IAMS032-002031376&fn=permalink&vid=IAMS_VU2

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

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

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book November (f. 29r)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 (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book November (f. 29r, 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/10/

Simon Bening’s October

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book October (f. 27v), 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/

Reading Thomas Parker’sarticle on Rabelais’s Table and the Poets of the Pléiade, I came across Autumn by Jacques Peletier du Mans, one of the early members of the Pléiade… Winey Bacchus readies his hoops, / Prepares wine presses, and repairs vessels. / The harvester has his feet completely soiled / From stamping and squashing the grapes. / And this first run (mère goutte) taste / That the pressed grape gives, / In an undulating torrent / Flows into the vat, / And the large barrel works hard, and groans / In a torturous embracing of the must…I thought, once more, of the Golf Book and of Simon Bening’s October miniature page depicting the harvest of wine grapes and the process of wine-making. https://content.ucpress.edu/chapters/12622.ch01.pdf

Wine-making, and the more agreeable labour of wine-tasting, write the British Library experts, is the focus of the main calendar page for the month of October. Simon Bening provides us with visual representations of the Flemish wine “industry,” sommelier aesthetics, and regional identity in the Renaissance. https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/calendars/page/10/

Looking at folio 28v is like reading a specialized wine “vocabulary” book, where a representation of vineyards, a fancy screw wine press, barrels, and grape must, is complete… almost with the sounds of groaning…

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, October (Details, f. 27v), 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 entire scene is filled with different tasks related to the grape harvest on a lord’s estate, writes Dr. Carlos Miranda García-Tejedor. One nobleman next to his residence offers another a bowl of the wine obtained from his harvest whilst a woman, a lady and a servant holding a pitcher in his hand look on. Beside them are servants carrying out different tasks: filling a barrel with the grape juice flowing from the screw press turned by two peasants; sealing the casks, well-decorated with vine leaves, with a hammer or hatchet; collecting juice for tasting and wine in a barrel, as shown by one of the servants, with a dog beside him, kneeling with a small pitcher in his hand; and, as can be seen in the mid-ground, grape picking, as shown by a man with a large basket or qualus on his back coming through the entrance arch of the stately house crowned by a peacock. The harvest is set in the mountainous landscape in the background, shown in a fine aerial perspective. https://www.moleiro.com/en/books-of-hours/the-golf-book-book-of-hours/miniatura/165

Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop
Book of Hours, known as the Golf Book, October (Detail, f. 27v), 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, October (Detail, f. 27v), 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’s October page depicting scenes of grape-harvesting and grape-tasting gives me the perfect opportunity to introduce my students to viticulture and viniculture! The scientific term “viticulture” refers to the science, study, and production of grapes. The term “viniculture” also refers to the science, study, and production of grapes, but, specifically to grapes for wine. https://www.pacificrimandco.com/blog/viniculture-vs-viticulture

My goal is to focus on Viticulture and plan a variety of Student Activities… HERE!

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 October (f. 27v and f. 28r), 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 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!