The Limbourg Brothers… and the 1st of May

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

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

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

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

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

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For a Student Activity Worksheet … Click HERE!

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

The Art of Portraiture during the Byzantine Period

The Art of Portraiture during the Byzantine Period is an interesting topic to explore! Portraits have been a popular subject among artists and patrons throughout the ages. From ancient Egyptian renderings on Tomb walls at Saqqara, in Egypt, to Rembrandt’s Self-Portraits and the abstracted works of Pablo Picasso, artists have depicted all kinds of portraits and in a wide variety of ways.

For Byzantine Art, the representation of the human face is important, yet very specific rules need to be followed, so as to depict it correctly. Byzantine Portraits embody a spiritual presence and the eyes play the role of the protagonist! Thus, eyes are affectionately called … the windows of the soul!

“The Art of Portraiture during the Byzantine Period” is an Activity I use in my Grade 7 Art History Class on Byzantium. Students enjoy comparing the three different portraits, discussing similarities and differences and thus, drawing conclusions.

Living in Thessaloniki, Greece, a city with 15 Byzantine UNESCO Monuments of Cultural Heritage, exploring the Art of the Byzantine Period is imperative!!!

Student Activity

This is a Project that requires four parts: 1. A nicely written title 2.      Colored copies of the three Byzantine Portraits, correctly identified 3. Answers to assigned Questions 4. An Art Project

For more on “The Art of Portraiture during the Byzantine Period” Activity… Click HERE!