Christmas Countdown: 17 More Sleeps!

 The Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, folio 44 verso (the back-side of the 44th leaf), early 15th century

I wrote about the Très Riches Heures back in July, so I won’t bother telling you much about it here. If you want to know more, check out the other post. It probably won’t take you long to realize that this is my absolute favourite illuminated manuscript. The Limbourg Brothers can do no wrong.

When this manuscript was produced, portrayals of God as a person were still fairly few and far between. If an illustrator wanted to portray God, he would usually draw a hand coming out of a cloud or something; indeed, it wasn’t until the Renaissance that drawings of God as a person became common. So the Limbourgs were ahead of the game. Big surprise there.

I love this God. I love how he looks exactly like how we still portray him, with a bushy grey beard. I love how he’s literally holding the whole world in his hand (although it’s interesting that it’s in his left hand as opposed to his right). And I love how he’s surrounded by a bunch of angels’ faces (creepy, isn’t it?). The image of God almost distracts viewers from that one shepherd on the right side of the image.

Look at that shepherd, showing all that leg.

That is a fabulous leg.

Christmas Countdown: 23 More Sleeps!

The Bedford Hours, c. 1410

This book was famously illuminated by the Bedford Master (we don’t know his name) for the 1st Duke of Bedford, John of Lancaster, to celebrate his wedding day. You may recognize the lapis lazuli blue – this colour was also used by the Limbourg Brothers for the Très Riches Heures.

The image above is quite similar to the images in the Très Riches, actually. See that peasant herding (or chopping?!) sheep in the background? And that castle? I’d be willing to bet that was John of Lancaster’s castle. The Limbourg Brothers incorporated the Duke de Berry’s castle in almost all of Très Riches‘ calendar images, and incorporated peasants doing lowly peasant work as well, to illustrate the Duke’s superiority. The Bedford Master likely incorporated the familiar images of the castle and the peasants in John’s book with the same intention, and also to help him feel more connected to the Nativity scene. I mean, his castle is RIGHT THERE. Looking over the Nativity. That’s pretty darn close.

And, onto something completely different: does anyone else find it a little funny that, while everyone is praying, Baby Jesus is doing the Chicken Dance in his birthday suit?