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/

Autumn by Giuseppe Arcimboldo

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 1527-1593
The Four Seasons – Autumn, 1573, oil on canvas, 76×64 cm, Louvre Museum, Paris, France https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Arcimboldo_Oto%C3%B1o.jpg

The peasant celebrates with song and dance the harvest safely gathered in. The cup of Bacchus flows freely, and many find their relief in deep slumber.     /     The singing and the dancing die away / as cooling breezes fan the pleasant air, / inviting all to sleep / without a care.     /     The hunters emerge at dawn, / ready for the chase, / with horns and dogs and cries. / Their quarry flees while they give chase. / Terrified and wounded, the prey struggles on, / but, harried, dies. This is Antonio Lucio Vivaldi’s (1678 – 1741) Sonnet L’Autunno (Autumn). The great composer wrote it as a descriptive accompaniment, experts believe, for the music of his “Four Seasons.” Today, I took the time to listen, read and look at Autumn by Giuseppe Arcimboldo! It was a magical time! https://www.charlottesymphony.org/blog/vivaldis-four-seasons-poems/

A scion of a noble and artistic family, his father was an artist, and his uncle held the position of Archbishop of Milan, Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1526–1593) was in all probability introduced to artists, scholars, and writers from a young age. Born and raised in Milan, the cradle of Renaissance naturalism, young Arcimboldo learnt a mode of artistic expression based on the direct observation of nature. Well-trained as an artist Arcimboldo was commissioned to do exceptional work at the age of 21. For example, in 1549 he was commissioned to design stained glass windows for the Duomo, in 1551 he painted coats of arms for the future Emperor, Ferdinand I, in 1556, he created frescoes for the Cathedral of Monza; and, in 1558, he drew the cartoon for the Dormition of the Virgin tapestry, which remains on display in the Como Cathedral in Lombardi to this day. https://www.theartstory.org/artist/arcimboldo-giuseppe/life-and-legacy/#biography_header and file:///C:/Users/aspil/OneDrive/Blog/Renaissance%20Mannerism/Arcimboldo%20ScoopNGA.pdf

In 1573 Giuseppe Arcimboldo painted a series of paintings of the four seasons for Habsburg Emperor Maximillian II. Autumn is one of them… with a berry for an eye, a pear for a nose, and grapes and leaves for a crown of hair, Arcimboldo’s Autumn is as captivating and quizzical as it was 500 years ago. https://news.artnet.com/art-world/giuseppe-arcimboldo-autumn-three-things-2039018

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 1527-1593
The Four Seasons – Autumn (detail), 1573, oil on canvas, 76×64 cm, Louvre Museum, Paris, France
https://news.artnet.com/art-world/giuseppe-arcimboldo-autumn-three-things-2039018

Interestingly, while Spring and Summer appear as youthful women, Autumn and Winter have the faces of grizzled old men. Autumn is presented with rough features looking to the left. His thick neck, made up of pears and root vegetables, emerges from a partially destroyed wine barrel. His face is made of apples, and pears, a chestnut for his mouth, and a pomegranate for his chin. The mushroom ear is adorned with a fig-shaped earring, and the hair, made up of bunches of different-coloured grapes, is crowned with a pumpkin bonnet! How more Autumnal Arcimboldo’s portrait can be!

For a PowerPoint of the Four Seasons by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, please… Check HERE!

I would like to draw your attention to a modern take of Arcimboldo’s The 4 Seasons paintings… a set of four-and-a-half meters high fiberglass sculptures of the Four Seasons by American artist and filmmaker Philip Haas, created in 2012. Interesting… to say the least! https://crystalbridges.org/blog/the-four-seasons-philip-haas-interprets-giuseppe-arcimboldo/

Philip Haas, b. 1954
The Four Seasons – Autumn, 2012, fiberglass, H. 4.572 m, first seen in the garden of the Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, UK
https://laughingsquid.com/giant-head-sculptures-representing-four-seasons/

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/

Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife

Jan Van Eyck, b. before 1395 – d. 1441
Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife, 1434, Oil on oak, 82 x 60 cm, National Gallery, London https://www.thehistoryofart.org/jan-van-eyck/arnolfini-wedding/

When the time comes for me to introduce my students to Jan van Eyck’s Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife,  I start with his flamboyant signature, Johannes de Eyck fuit hic. 1434 – Jan van Eyck was here. 1434, inscribed immediately above the mirror on the portrait’s background wall. Unpretentious words… but how artfully do they draw attention to his extraordinary skills as a painter and a storyteller! https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/jan-van-eyck-portrait-of-a-man-self-portrait

Jan Van Eyck, b. before 1395 – d. 1441
Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife (detail of inscription), 1434, Oil on oak, 82 x 60 cm, National Gallery, London
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Arnolfini_Portrait,_d%C3%A9tail_(6).jpg

Then, I am in trouble… I look at my students and I am flooded with questions, I do not have the precise answers. Is this exactly the reason why the Arnolfini Portrait is so attractive? How do I proceed?

“Jan van Eyck is credited with originating a style of painting characterized by minutely realistic depictions of surface effects and natural light. This was made possible by using an oil medium, which allowed the building up of paint in translucent layers, or glazes.” These two sentences by the National Gallery in London embody the essence of van Eyck’s painting style and technique. I like to read them to my students emphasizing his contribution to Western European Art. Information about his training and his life is scarce, we do know, however, that he was a member of the gentry class and that by 1425 he lived at Bruges and Lille as a court painter to Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. We also know that in 1428 he traveled to Portugal to paint Philip the Good’s future wife, Isabella of Portugal.     https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/artists/jan-van-eyck

I still hesitate… and start with the background, the decorative details, the room itself! Easier to say than do…

Jan Van Eyck, b. before 1395 – d. 1441
Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife (upper half), 1434, Oil on oak, 82 x 60 cm, National Gallery, London https://www.dailyartmagazine.com/the-arnolfini-portrait/

First impressions… This seems to be a luxurious room in a house of brick, lit up by a window that opens onto a garden with a cherry tree, glimpsed through the open shutters. Colourful light comes in through the glass window at the top, with clear bulls-eye pieces set in blue, red, and green stained glass. What an amazing display of wealth and “hidden symbolisms”…  

Let’s start with the impressive, bronze chandelier, that has one lit candle, which represents the seeing eye of God. Consider the mirror, decorated with scenes from the Passion of Christ, unblemished so as to symbolize the piety of Mary, the Mother of God. The wooden sandals… could they imply a “sacred” ground, or are they another evidence of incredible wealth? Could the small dog between the couple symbolize marital fidelity? Last but not least… the figure of St. Margaret carved on the finial of the big chair by the bed is the patron saint of pregnancy and childbirth, while the cherry tree painted outside the window is a symbol of love! https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/jan-van-eyck-the-arnolfini-portrait and https://www.artstor.org/2017/06/06/the-many-questions-surrounding-jan-van-eycks-arnolfini-portrait/

Jan Van Eyck, b. before 1395 – d. 1441
Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife (details of the dog and St. Margaret), 1434, Oil on oak, 82 x 60 cm, National Gallery, London
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnolfini_Portrait#/media/File:Jan_van_Eyck_009.jpg
https://oeuvremagazinecom.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/the-symbolic-meaning-of-the-arnolfini-wedding/

The Arnolfini room is full of smaller or bigger luxuries. The bed, for example, covered with expensive red woolen cloth dominates the scene along with ornately carved furniture, covered with red cushions and fabric. An intricately woven Oriental rug on the floor, oranges by the window, and beautiful rosary beads hanging next to the mirror… are all signifiers of great wealth in 15th century Belgium. https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/jan-van-eyck-the-arnolfini-portrait and https://www.artstor.org/2017/06/06/the-many-questions-surrounding-jan-van-eycks-arnolfini-portrait/

The difficult questions must be addressed… Who are the people in this luxurious, very personal setting? So many questions… and so many diverse answers!

Jan Van Eyck, b. before 1395 – d. 1441
Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife (portraits), 1434, Oil on oak, 82 x 60 cm, National Gallery, London
https://www.artble.com/imgs/b/9/e/222687/249875.jpg and https://www.dailyartmagazine.com/the-arnolfini-portrait/

They are clearly, according to the National Gallery in London, husband, and wife, and for many years the painting was understood as representing a marriage ceremony, though not anymore. From early on the painting was identified as showing one ‘Hernoul le Fin’ or ‘Arnoult Fin’. The most likely candidate is Giovanni di Nicolao di Arnolfini, known as Giannino or Jehannin, who would have been in his late thirties in 1434. The lady is probably his second wife, whose identity is unknown. The large round mirror that hangs right in the centre of the composition is stunning! Its convex glass shows not just the compressed and contorted room but also two men coming in through a door behind us. Immediately above the mirror is the flamboyant signature: Johannes de Eyck fuit hic. 1434 (‘Jan van Eyck was here. 1434’). Are the two men in the mirror Jan van Eyck, in a red turban, and his servant, arriving on a visit? https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/jan-van-eyck-the-arnolfini-portrait

Jan Van Eyck, b. before 1395 – d. 1441
Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife (detail of mirror), 1434, Oil on oak, 82 x 60 cm, National Gallery, London
https://el.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/%CE%91%CF%81%CF%87%CE%B5%CE%AF%CE%BF:The_Arnolfini_Portrait,_d%C3%A9tail_%282%29.jpg

So many questions…

For a Student WRAP Activity on the Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife, please… Check HERE!

An informative Video (3:59 min) presentation of the Arnolfini Portrait prepared by the National Gallery in London… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wM6d9BOj4Ww

If you want to explore the Bibliography on the Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife… start with: Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait, by Erwin Panofsky, The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, Vol. 64, No. 372 (Mar. 1934), pp. 117-119+122-127 (9 pages) https://www.jstor.org/stable/865802

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!

The Fall of Icarus

Pieter Brueghel the Elder, attributed, 1526/1530–1569
Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, circa 1558, oil on canvas mounted on wood, 73.5×112 cm, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pieter_Bruegel_de_Oude_-_De_val_van_Icarus.jpg

The ancient Greek Myth of Icarus has endured not only in visual but in literary arts as well! The Fall of Icarus attributed to Pieter Bruegel the Elder(According to the museum: “It is doubtful the execution is by Bruegel the Elder, but the composition can be said with certainty to be his”) is a fine example of how the Visual and the Literary Arts complement each other! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landscape_with_the_Fall_of_Icarus

The myth of Icarus’s Fall is magnificently told by Ovid in Book VIII: 183-235 of his Metamorphoses… When Daedalus had put the last touches to what he had begun, the artificer balanced his own body between the two wings and hovered in the moving air. He instructed the boy as well, saying ‘Let me warn you, Icarus, to take the middle way, in case the moisture weighs down your wings, if you fly too low, or if you go too high, the sun scorches them. Travel between the extremes. And I order you not to aim towards Bootes, the Herdsman, or Helice, the Great Bear, or towards the drawn sword of Orion: take the course I show you!’ At the same time as he laid down the rules of flight, he fitted the newly created wings on the boy’s shoulders. While he worked and issued his warnings the aging man’s cheeks were wet with tears: the father’s hands trembled… but the boy did not listen… he began to delight in his daring flight, and abandoning his guide, drawn by desire for the heavens, soared higher… and disaster stroke! https://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Latin/Metamorph8.php#anchor_Toc64106497

The iconic painting of the Fall of Icarus in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium is an amazing World Landscape, a type of composition depicting an imaginary panoramic landscape seen from an elevated viewpoint that includes mountains and lowlands, water, and buildings. At first glance, it is not easy to notice the spot where Icarus fell. All the artist painted is a pair of legs kicking in the sea next to the big ship on the right side of the composition. The depicted plowman carries on with his task while the shepherd seems unaware of the event, gazing into the air, away from the ship. Could the artist present the Flemish proverb… And the farmer continued to plough… pointing out the ignorance of people of fellow men’s suffering? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_landscape and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landscape_with_the_Fall_of_Icarus

Pieter Brueghel the Elder, attributed, 1526/1530–1569
Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (detail of Icarus), circa 1558, oil on canvas mounted on wood, 73.5×112 cm, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium  https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0b/Pieter_bruegel_il_vecchio%2C_caduta_di_icaro%2C_1558_circa_07.JPG
Pieter Brueghel the Elder, attributed, 1526/1530–1569
Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (detail of the boat), circa 1558, oil on canvas mounted on wood, 73.5×112 cm, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium 
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pieter_bruegel_il_vecchio,_caduta_di_icaro,_1558_circa_06_nave.JPG

The Fall of Icarus attributed to Pieter Bruegel the Elder inspired the acclaimed poet of the Imagist movement, William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) to write… According to Brueghel / when Icarus fell / it was spring     /     a farmer was ploughing / his field / the whole pageantry     /     of the year was / awake tingling / near     /     the edge of the sea / concerned / with itself     /     sweating in the sun / that melted / the wings’ wax     /     unsignificantly / off the coast / there was     /     a splash quite unnoticed / this was / Icarus drowning…  https://poets.org/poem/landscape-fall-icarus

Pieter Brueghel the Elder, attributed, 1526/1530–1569
Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (detail of the city), circa 1558, oil on canvas mounted on wood, 73.5×112 cm, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium  https://www.dailyartmagazine.com/painting-of-the-week-pieter-bruegel-the-elder-landscape-with-the-fall-of-icarus/

It inspired, the British-American poet, Wystan Hugh Auden, as well, who writes …In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away / Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may / Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry, / But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone / As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green / Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen / Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky, / Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on. http://english.emory.edu/classes/paintings&poems/auden.html

Amazing!

For a Student Activity on The Fall of Icarus, a painting in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium and the poem Lines on Brueghel’s “Icarus” by Michael Peter Leopold Hamburger (1924-2007) inspired by the painting, please… Check HERE!

An interesting Video, prepared by Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium and presented by Christine Ayoub on The proverbs in Pieter Bruegel’s “Fall of Icarus” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duf0knJ7CXI

Christine Ayoub, a guide at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, presents another interesting Video, reading an extract from Ovid’s Metamorphoses featuring the tale of the Fall of Icarus.  https://artsandculture.google.com/story/ewUxXpmuNdcLJg

Pieter Brueghel the Elder, attributed, 1526/1530–1569
Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (detail of the sun), circa 1558, oil on canvas mounted on wood, 73.5×112 cm, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium  https://www.dailyartmagazine.com/painting-of-the-week-pieter-bruegel-the-elder-landscape-with-the-fall-of-icarus/

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/

Donatello’s Pazzi Madonna

Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi (Donatello), ca. 1386-1466
Madonna and Child (the Pazzi Madonna), 1420-25, Marble, 74,5 x 73 x 6,5 cm, Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin
https://www.theartnewspaper.com/2021/11/30/first-major-donatello-exhibition-in-nearly-40-years-to-open-in-florence

…Donatello was so admirable in knowledge, in judgment, and in the practice of his art that he may be said to have been the first to illustrate the art of sculpture among the moderns; and he deserves the more commendation because in his time few antiquities had been uncovered. He was one of those who aroused in Cosimo de’ Medici the desire to bring antiquities into Florence. He was most liberal and courteous, and kinder to his friends than himself; nor did he care for money, keeping it in a basket hanging from the ceiling, where his workmen and friends could help themselves without saying anything to him. When he got old, therefore, and could not work, he was supported by Cosimo and his friends. Cosimo dying, recommended him to Piero his son, who, to carry out his father’s wishes, gave him… enough… Giorgio Vasari writes back in 16th century Florence, to pass the rest of his life as friend and servant of the Medici without trouble or care.  Please allow me to present Donatello’s Pazzi Madonna of c. 1420, as an introduction to Donatello, The Renaissance Exhibition, currently at the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi and the Musei del Bargello in Florence, Italy (March 19-July31). http://www.artist-biography.info/artist/donatello/ and https://www.palazzostrozzi.org/en/archivio/exhibitions/donatello/

Celebrated as one of the greatest Renaissance artists, Donatello’s Pazzi Madonna, depicts both mother and child with their faces turned towards one another and away from viewers, says Francesco Caglioti, curator of the Donatello, The Renaissance Exhibition. Their foreheads are touching, and they share a profoundly intimate moment which every mother has experienced, he continues. It is a profoundly intimate, emotional, and thus, a powerful work of art, proving Donatello to be an exceptionally talented artist in translating nature into art. https://www.theartnewspaper.com/2021/11/30/first-major-donatello-exhibition-in-nearly-40-years-to-open-in-florence

The Pazzi Madonna in the Berlin Staatlichen Museum is believed to originate from the Palazzo Pazzi in Florence, where according to a 1677 Florentine Guide Book, the sculpture could be seen in the Palazzo Garden. Although this identification is challenged, it is worth reading the Renaissance text… In the house of Francesco Pazzi there is a beautiful marble Madonna in low relief by Donatello; the Christ Child, seated upon a cushion, is supported by the Virgin’s right hand, while he, with his raised left hand, holds the veil that hangs from her head. It is charming in every part, the draperies are most beautiful, and the Virgin’s tenderness toward her son is expressed with great art and is such, that in the following succession, Alessandro, the father of Francesco, bought it for 500 scudi according to the valuation that was made. http://www.smb-digital.de/eMuseumPlus?service=ExternalInterface&lang=en

Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi (Donatello), ca. 1386-1466
Madonna and Child (the Pazzi Madonna) (detail-faces), 1420-25, Marble, 74,5 x 73 x 6,5 cm, Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin
https://www.palazzostrozzi.org/en/upcoming-exhibitions/
Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi (Donatello), ca. 1386-1466
Madonna and Child (the Pazzi Madonna) (detail-lower part), 1420-25, Marble, 74,5 x 73 x 6,5 cm, Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Donatello_Bode_Madonna_Pazzi_05.jpg

Donatello’s Pazzi Madonna is greatly admired for its Renaissance “modernity.” The artist revived, for example, Antiquity by using and “playing” with monochrome, off-white coloured marble for his bas-relief, diverging from the popular tradition of using color in sculpture. He employed linear perspective to present spatial perception, a novel, introduced in 1415, “invention” by Filippo Brunelleschi. He used strong foreshortening to accentuate the best point of vision for the viewer. He created a tender, yet emotionally powerful, very “humanized” composition. The Pazzi Madonna is a Donatello masterpiece that still inspires and enchants viewers today.

Today, Francesco Caglioti, curator of the Donatello, The Renaissance Exhibition believes that Donatello is a colossal artist, more important than Giotto, Raphael or Caravaggio because those three revolutionized the traditions of their time. Donatello broke with tradition completely, taking inspiration from the art of antiquity and the Middle Ages and mixing all those elements with his own vision to create an entirely new language for art. Donatello, The Renaissance Exhibition is currently on view in Florence (March 19-July31), will be presented in the Berlin Gemäldegalerie (September2-January 8 2023), and in London at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2023. This is a historic Exhibition hosting over 130 works from the world’s leading museums and collections set out to reconstruct the astonishing career of one of the most important and influential masters of Italian art of any age. https://www.theartnewspaper.com/2021/11/30/first-major-donatello-exhibition-in-nearly-40-years-to-open-in-florence

For a new PowerPoint on Donatello’s Masterpieces, please… Click HERE!

Teaching with Donatello is a set of student activities and worksheets inspired by the great Italian artist I much admire… Click… https://www.teachercurator.com/art/teaching-with-donatello/

The commemorative Donatello, The Renaissance Exhibition Book https://www.artbook.com/9791254630068.html