Commissioned by the Duc de Berry, created by the Limbourg Brothers: an exceptional masterpiece of illumination

Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry

Paris (France) — Around 1404

Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry

Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry

Paris (France) — Around 1404

  1. A commission of Jean Duc de Berry (1340–1416), one of the greatest art patrons of the Middle Ages

  2. Created by the most famous artists of the early 15th century: the Limbourg Brothers Herman, Paul, and Johan

  3. One of the most exceptional book of hours ever made served as a template for the Old Dutch Master Jan van Eyck (ca. 1390–1441)

Les Belles Heures du Duc de Berry

Bedford Hours

Crucifixion Darkness

One of the most dramatic scenes in the Crucifixion – and one of the most difficult for artists to recreate – is when the sky darkened after Christ died on the cross. The exact nature of this darkening is unclear and while the Gospel of Luke seemingly attributes it to an eclipse, Matthew and Mark give no explanation. This miniature makes use of grays and blues to portray a blackened sun, frightened onlookers, and dead saints rising from their graves under the cover of darkness.

Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry

Alternative Titles:
  • Les Belles Heures du Duc de Berry
  • Das Schöne Stundenbuch des Herzogs von Berry
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

Les Belles Heures du Duc de Berry, so reads the title of one of the most exceptional and richly designed manuscripts that was ever produced. The work was made between 1405 and 1409 for Jean de Valois, Duke of Berry. The private devotional book was designed by his three court artists, probably the most famous book artists of their time, namely the Brothers Limburg. Each page of the work shows breathtaking illustrations. The impressive full-page miniatures of the manuscript inspired the painting of such Old Dutch artists as Jan van Eyck.

Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry

Sometime between 1405 and 1409, one of the most beautiful and luxurious illuminated manuscripts that still survives to this day emerged in Paris. The Belles Heures du Duc de Berry is the private prayer and devotional book of Jean de Valois and was made by the famous Limburg Brothers. It is one of the highest-quality books produced by the three brothers Paul, Johan, and Herman as well as in all of medieval Europe. The richly-illustrated codex contains seven incomparable pictorial cycles. These are devoted to Christian figures or important ecclesiastical events, which was of significant meaning for the Duke of Berry. The 172 impressive miniatures altogether became forerunners for the outstanding Dutch painting of the 15th century, and served as templates for the work of Jan van Eyck.

At the Behest of a Passionate Book Lover

Jean de Valois, Duke of Berry, is known to this day as one of the greatest collectors and patrons of exceptional artistic treasures and precious illuminated manuscripts of the entire Middle Ages. The Duke owned one of the most luxurious libraries in France. During his reign, he constantly expanded his precious collection of books, gave commissions to the most gifted artists of his time and acquired some of the most valuable manuscripts that have survived. Each work of the over 300 manuscripts comprising his library at the end of his life was of exceptionally high quality. Alongside what is probably his most famous document, the Très Riches Heures, the Belles Heures is considered to be an absolute masterwork and highlight of the ducal book treasure chamber.

The Art of the Limburg Brothers

The Belles Heures was made by the three most talented and popular illuminators in those days, namely the three brothers Paul, Johan, and Herman Limburg. The three Dutch brothers were born in the last quarter of the 14th century and already encountered artistic craftwork in their childhood. Their father, who worked as a woodcutter, sent his sons to Paris to apprentice with goldsmiths. Here they entered the service of the Duke of Burgundy ca. 1400, and worked as court artists and illuminators. After the death of their first patron in the year 1404, all three brothers were appointed court painters by the brother of the Duke of burgundy, Jean de Valois. In the same year, the unbelievably talented artists began with their collective work on a personal book of hours for their new patron.

Enrapturing Illumination

One of the most fantastic illuminated manuscripts in French history originated from a unique collaboration between the three brothers and their exceptionally generous patron. The 172 miniatures of the Belles Heures shine in a never before seen splendor of color and are quite extravagantly adorned with precious gold leaf. Every excitingly life-like picture and also every text page of the work is surrounded by magnificently shimmering decorative tendrils and ivy leaves. Countless luminously glittering elements of décor introduce important text passages and multi-lined decorative initials in the colors of the ducal coat of arms – red, blue, and gold – round out the splendid impression of the manuscript. Impressive images, yet never depicted in a similar form, characterize the miniature adornment of the book of hours. Thus a pictorial cycle of four miniatures mirrors the great veneration Jean de Valois had for his namesake, John the Baptist. No other illuminated manuscript of that time contained a similar pictorial cycle. Consequently, the elaborate variety of design, but also the selection of visual motifs for the Belles Heures, has ensured that the work will forever remain an unsurpassed unicum in the history of illumination.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Les Belles Heures du Duc de Berry
Das Schöne Stundenbuch des Herzogs von Berry
Size / Format
448 pages / 23.8 x 17.0 cm
Date
Around 1404
Style
Gothic
Language
Illustrations
172 miniatures of the Limburg brothers. Every miniature and every page of the text is surrounded by decorative filigree scrollwork with up to 500 gold glowing ivy leaves
Artist / School
Les Belles Heures du Duc de Berry

Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry

The Annunciation

Created by the famous Limbourg Brothers, this is one of the finest depictions of this popular subject. The scene is contained in a splendid architecture, atop which God stands crowned with orb in hand and flanked by two angels. Golden pen strokes and a dove indicate his divine presence entering the Virgin Mary, whose prayers are interrupted when the archangel Gabriel informs her that she will conceive the Son of God.

The frame is as impressive as the scene within: 19 medallion miniatures are backed with gold and surrounded by delicate tendrils. They alter between angels playing instruments and men reading unfurled scrolls, while those to the left contain various animals. The composition is rounded out by the Duke’s escutcheons and is perfect in every way.

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry“

Les Belles Heures du Duc de Berry
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
Belles Heures of Jean Duke of Berry – Acc. No. 54.1.1 – Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)
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Les Belles Heures du Duc de Berry

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Faksimile Verlag – Luzern, 2003
Limited Edition
980 copies
Binding
Perfect replica of the exclusive binding, including the minutest detail. Tooling stamps were designed and made by hand, for use on the rich gilded decoration of the book covers, of the spine with its seven raised bands, and of the edges. Protective case of acrylic glass.
Commentary
2 volumes by Prof. Eberhard König
More Information
Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
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