Saturday, 1 February 2014

February - Très Riches Heures

This illustration is in striking contrast to the January Très Riches Heures which showed a colourful gathering of aristocrats feasting in opulent surroundings. Here we see peasants tackling the daily grinding chores of winter.  In the background nestling below a leaden grey sky is a snow covered village. Two men can be seen - one chopping wood, and the other delivering it to the village strapped to a donkey. Some lovely details showing a snow covered haystack, a dovecote, and four bee-skeps? Looking very similar to mine.  In the foreground a sheep pen, the sheep huddled together for warmth, and a group of Magpies, pecking seeds.  A cut away image of a peasant's home shows two men and a women endeavouring to warm themselves in front of the fire. The women modestly averts her eyes as she lifts her dress, whilst the two peasant men show no such inhibitions and reveal all!  A further peasant wrapped in a shawl rushes quickly from the cold towards the house. 
The February blue lunette shows the zodiac sign for Aquarius and Pisces. In the centre the chariot of the sun continues it's yearly cycle through the heavens.
This is the penultimate post showing Les Très Riches Heures.
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P.S
During the middle ages male peasants wore an undergarment called braies. Generally they wore a tunic over the top but during the hot summer weather nothing else. Braies were closed with a drawstring at the waist as per image.
Month of March here.

52 comments:

  1. Isn't it extraordinary how a 15th century chronicle can look so modern ? I love your post. I do belive that, like poetry, a painting is so enriched by a proper commentary !

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    1. Thank you - there is so much detail in these illuminations, the more you look the more you see. I have, in fact, just noticed the wattle fencing and recall seeing similar fencing in Brittany last year which I admired.

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  2. For me this is one of the most beautiful images you have shown of Les très riches heures, enjoyed your comment too.

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    1. This one really conveys a very cold winter scene and lots of lovely details. Thank you for your kind comment.

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  3. How wonderful that there should be bee-skeps Rosemary! Sitting in the warm is what I am going to be doing this afternoon for sure. Snow in the rain today.

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    1. It appears that bee-skeps can be left out all winter according to this illustration.
      We have the sun at the moment, but it is chilly, so an afternoon inside by the fire sounds good.

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  4. Hello Rosemary, It seems that this is the first vignette that does not feature the château, or at least aristocratic activities. That makes it more apparent how each of these scenes contrasts the different levels and interrelationships of French society at that time. Here we see the modest, better dress lady as above the cruder couple next to her. Also the bees, sheep and barrels remind us of the farm produce as the base of wealth, including that of the nobility. Finally, it is interesting to note the few black sheep intermingled with the mostly white ones.

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    1. Dear Jim - as this illuminated manuscript was commissioned by the Duc de Berry I imagine that the peasants depicted here were all serving under his yoke. A percentage of their wine, honey, and sheep would all be handed over to him as their tithes.
      I have noticed from time to time a few black sheep in a field full of white sheep, and understand that it has something to do with a recessive gene in the same way that a recessive gene is responsible for people with red hair.

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  5. Dear Rosemary,

    The weather depicted in the month of February depicts the snow and icy températures I hope we will have this month. January has been far too mild here in the Loire Valley with plenty of rain and sunshine too.

    Medieval garnments have always fascinated me. There is a book, if you read French, by Odile Blanc called "Parades et parures; l'invention du corps de mode à la fin du Moyen Age", which I thoroughly recommend.

    Happy weekend to you,

    Stephanie

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    1. Dear Stephanie - Thank you for that information - I am always keen to know more.
      You are hoping for snow? So far snow has eluded us too, but as I am sure you are aware we have had lots of rain. All the spring flowers are very advanced this year.
      Lovely to hear from you.

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  6. February...I see snow....here in the Netherlands it is like Spring.
    Next week it will 10 grades and maybe higher.....it is here more April than February.
    Nice Post.
    Have a nice Weekend Rosemary.

    Greetings,
    Inge, my choice

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    1. Dear Inge - we have been without snow too. I wonder if we will escape having snow this winter? I would be very happy for it to pass us by.
      Have a lovely weekend too Inge.

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    2. Dear Rosemary,what a beautiful image from February!I'm an Aquarium!Here the weather is like Spring and all the spring flowers, areblooming!I just read Inges comment about the weather in the Netherlands!And i'm so happy for my daughter,who lives there!Wish you a happy new month!
      Dimi...

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    3. That is lovely that you have been able to find out that your daughter is also enjoying good weather. This illustration for February makes you feel cold just looking at it.

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  7. I find the underwear of other periods strangely fascinating. I suppose because it is so very important to us all in our daily lives, and yet it is rarely remarked upon or thought about, except when it's lingerie for special occasions - or if you are a buyer at Marks and Spencers! :)

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    1. That sounds like an interesting and really good post Jenny. I became curious about the undergarments of the peasants when I realised that the two men sitting in front of the fire had nothing covering themselves.

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  8. That's like here. Snow, a proper winter. We use firewood as well, every day! That's a lovely painting, Rosemary. Happy February!

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    1. It has been interesting to see your photos of the snow Satu especially as we have had no snow here - lots of rain though.

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  9. Dear Rosemary. I have always enjoyed seeing scenes of every day life.in old manuscripts and I appreciate your detailed narrative along with them.
    Often ranchers in our area include a black sheep for every 50 or every hundred so that they can easily be counted from the air.

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    1. Dear Gina - glad that you enjoyed seeing the February manuscript and the narrative. There is so much more detail in these illustration than a quick glance reveals.
      What a brilliant idea that the ranchers to include a black sheep for every 50 white ones helping them to keep track of them from the air.

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  10. There's such a lot to look at in these old pages. Thank you for the little tour of the illustration - it added to my pleasure in it!

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    1. Thank you Pondside - glad you enjoyed it.

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  11. It seems that this month may be is a month with snow and all they are covered .The bee skeps are like yours !
    Thank you for these informations about the February .Have a lovely month !

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    1. Dear Olympia - I was delighted to see the bee-skeps which are almost the same as mine. The snow looks very cold and unwelcoming on the illustration - it must have been a very difficult life for the peasants.

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  12. The lady in blue draws my attention.

    Greetings,
    Filip

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    1. Yes, she is revealing her modesty well.

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  13. Another fascinatingi illustration with so much to see. It is interesting that the bee skeps are being shown in February at a time with no bees or honey! The peasant in the shawl does look very cold - it's no wonder that inside the others are making the most of the fire. The braies look a bit too bulky to be comfortable (although cool in hot weather, I imagine)

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    1. Dear Wendy - I was really interested to discover that the bee-skeps were kept outside during the winter. I had imagined that the winter weather might damage the straw, but it would appear that is not the case.

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  14. Oh I so enjoy these wonderful monthly illustrations Rosemary and your interpretation of them. There is so much to look at and interpret and I could sit for hours mulling them over. Thank you.
    Patricia x

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    1. Dear Patricia - you have made my day - thank you.
      My commitment to post the relevant month throughout the year was more of a challenge than I thought it would be. This proved to be especially the case if I was due to be on holiday towards the end or beginning of the month.

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  15. Dear Rosemary,

    I've enjoyed the details in all of these pages, not just for their artistry, but also for the hints they give about life in medieval times. I never knew about braies. I wonder if there is any relationship between the words "braies" and "briefs?"

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    1. Dear Mark - curiously I read somewhere that by the 14th century braies got briefer!!! You could be on to something there.

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  16. Dear Rosemary

    Thanks for the docent tour and like always I have learned a new word "braies" can I interpret it to be: knickers with a string attached!

    Helenxx

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    1. Dear Helen - I think that you can - although the debate is out as to whether or not women wore them. The string was rather like a quick release device!!!

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  17. Another enjoyable post on the Heures, and I do love the detail of peasant farm life in this one. The snowy village looks like a scene on a Christmas card, and how special that the bee skeps were just like yours all those centuries ago! But I can't find the dovecote, no matter how much I look...

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    1. Dear Patricia - you are probably not familiar with the medieval European Dovecotes, but have seen the small ones that people have in their gardens. The dovecote is the tall cylindrical building on the righthand side of the painting. It would have been open to the sky for the doves to go in and out and would have had nesting shelves inside. Pigeons and doves were an important source of food both for the flesh and the eggs.
      I will do a dovecote post.

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  18. That is a lovely one, I was drawn to the tree in the middle, but then the lady in blue caught my eye :)
    Each person tells their own story.

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    1. This illustration conveys the reality of how harsh life was for the medieval peasants. It makes you feel cold just looking at it.

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  19. I really love this painting, somehow it just speaks to me. Such a rich scene and very well interpreted by you. You really wonder how they managed to get through the winter dressed like that, and the lady's dress certainly doesn't indicate the cold !

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    1. They must have been bitterly cold, and no doubt many of them died.
      I suppose we have to remember that the average life expectancy was very low. First of all you had to survive being born and then childhood. At that time woman did not live as long as men because the risks from childbirth were so great. I read that is the reason why so many women decided to become nuns.
      From 1400 - 1800 the average life span of a male was 33 years 9 months and for a female 28 years and 5 months.

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  20. Dear Rosemary,
    life must have been hard at that time: look at the washing on the line - it must have taken ages to dry. As to underwear I recently tried a very chic and very slim evening gown, and when I said: 'But you can see the line of the tights' the shop-lady said: "Oh, you wear it without any undergarments." I say...

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    1. Dear Britta - I think it is quite likely that the 'washing' may be wet from them being outside. I understand that clothes washing, bathing, hair-washing etc were not very often on the agenda of medieval people and as a consequence they were covered in lice.
      Ooh la la, very slinky - I think quite a lot of people go without underwear! from your photo I think that you would look very nice in the evening gown.

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  21. Dear Rosemary,
    I've been enjoying these posts on 'les tres riches Heures'. Yes, February is 'back to reality' just as it is today! I quite like the person who appears to be running across the farmyard towards the house. They have pulled some sort of shawl over their heads and are holding it to their faces to keep out the cold. I will know just how they feel as I walk to work in a short while…
    The attention to detail in these works is wonderful. Even to showing that the roof of the sheep pen needs repair.
    Bye for now and I hope you are keeping warm.
    Kirk

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    1. Dear Kirk - Les Très Riches Heures is similar to having a documentary of the peasants and nobles lives in France during the early15th century, and from that point of view must be unique. The Limbourg brothers have included so many interesting details in each monthly illustration that it has made a delightful journey for me to follow.

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  22. Dear Rosemary - Wow, the blue is so intense and vibrant against the snowy village!! Of all of these, this one is my favorite as I'm very fond of everyday village scenes. I guess I enjoy domestic chores and country life. Not so fond of the braies!

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    1. Dear Loi - the rural scene looks very idyllic, but the reality of life at that time must have been really difficult, and in fact extremely hard. No central heating or double glazing, and no domestic gadgets that we take for granted today.

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  23. I love this scene of this Trez Riches Heurs.
    Before I even read your post, my eyes went train to the bee skips. How incredible Rosemary- They are just like yours.
    This is an intriguing painting, by the Lindberg brothers - You wrote about the man with the cloak moving towards the workers cabin! He probably knew that it was warm there!
    I see that the men are naked beneath their attire. They are also holding their hands up, as if to warm themselves. I somehow think, that there is a fire lit there in the cabin.
    The little farm is all so very well kept. Only one woman! could she be there for the purpose of pleasure!
    it could be.!! I can imagine, that some people, did not even have money to buy underwear.
    Very interesting Rosemary. Most enjoyable as always.
    Sorry I am a little late with my comment.
    Better late than never.. wishing you an excellent week val x

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    1. Dear Val - if you look carefully to the left of the lady you can see the orange/red flames of a fire burning.
      Underwear as we know it did not exist - their lives were very, very, basic.
      How fortunate we are to live today.
      Hope all is well with you.

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  24. I like to listen to your interpretation of a picture. It is always meticulous and opens my eyes. There’s so much room to learn from you, rosemary.

    Yoko

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    1. Dear Yoko - you are always so generous with your comments which I greatly appreciate - thank you.

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  25. I love the homely detail in the February illumination, Rosemary. Looking at the snow, I think i'd rather have that than this endless rain.

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    1. Dear Perpetua - the constant rain is getting to all of us. This afternoon we suddenly had the most wonderful golden sunshine piercing through our trees, and I actually got really excited about it!!!

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