Dictionary of Art and Artists


that Changed the World


  Lascaux Caves Manesse illuminated Massys Callot Friedrich Picasso
  Tutankhamen's tomb Lorenzetti Grunewald Rembrandt Constable Matisse
  Europa and Minotaur Karlstein Castle Baldung Claude Lorrain Delacroix Marc
  Banquet Tomb Limbourg brothers Altdorfer Velazquez Turner Kandinsky
  Pompeii Van Eyck Cranach Vermeer Ingres Monet
  Birth of Christianity Della Francesca Holbein Rigaud Manet Chirico
  Hagia Sophia Uccello Titian Watteau Burne-Jones Modigliani
  Book of Kells Mantegna Bruegel Canaletto Seurat Chagall
  St Benedict Botticelli Vicentino Boucher Van Gogh Kahlo
  Bayeux Tapestry Anonymous Arcimboldo Fragonard Toulouse-Lautrec Dali
  Donizo manuscript Durer El Greco Gainsborough Munch Ernst
  Liber Scivias Bosch Theodore de Bry John Trumbull Cezanne Hopper
  Carmina Burana Da Vinci Caravaggio David Gauguin Bacon
  Falcon Book Michelangelo Rubens Gros Degas Warhol
  Giotto Raphael Brouwer Goya Klimt  

From Lascaux to Warhol

Supreme art is a traditional statement of certain heroic and religious truth,
passed on from age to age, modified by individual genius,
but never abandoned.

William Butler Yeats




Miniature Kings and Peasants

The Due de Berry's Book of Hours



Others may amass riches of glittering gold, or have as much farmland as they desire! I wish only for modest possessions and to have a peaceful life; if only the fire keeps burning on my own hearth.

Tibullus, "Happiness in the Country" from the Elegies, first century ВС


Limbourg brothers
Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry
c. 1413-1416
 Musee Conde, Chantilly


The Due de Berry collected only precious things: jewels, Italian cloth woven from gold, valuable musical instruments, porcelain, timepieces, embroidered tapestries and reliquaries. He owned seventeen castles, a zoo with ostriches, camels, chamois, a tooth of Charlemagne's and the finest ruby collection of his day. But books were his first love. His library contained Roman classics, chronicles, chansons de geste and an edition of The Travels of Marco Polo.

A true connoisseur, the Due de Berry never missed a chance to indulge in pomp and luxury. The Due de Berry, or Jean de France, was the son of the French King Jean II. so he could afford such expensive taste. And when his money ran low, he could simply raise the taxes in central France, an area which fell mostly under his rule.

The Duke was not just a consumer of extravagant things, but also an active patron of the arts, commissioning countless artists and artisans. Some of his most famous commissions were Books of Hours. These illuminated manuscripts contained prayers which the laity recited in their personal devotions, so-called because the prayers were to be said at particular times of the day.

The Due de Berry owned several Books of Hours, and, in 1413, he commissioned the Limbourg brothers to execute Les Tres Riches Hams, which became his most valuable example. The preliminary work for this book was actually completed by another artist who died shortly after receiving the commission. When the three brothers from Nijmegen in the Netherlands started to work on this book, they were all in their thirties and must have realised that this would be the work of a lifetime. In 1416, all three brothers died, as did their patron, probably from one of the many epidemics rampant at that time throughout Europe.

Les Tres Riches Heures, with its 206 leaves, was actually never finished. Despite this, it is regarded as one of the greatest works of European medieval art: the finest fifteenth-century illuminated manuscript and a supreme example of painting in the International Gothic style. Here, for the first time in the history of manuscript illumination, idealistic landscapes were replaced by real landscapes, in this case depicting the regions belonging to the Due de Berry. The Month of August shows the Chateau d'Etampes, a massive twelfth-century castle which still looms above the countryside today. In this calendar cycle, August is the only one to depict courtiers and peasants together in the same scene. The court, however, does not come into contact with the peasants, who labour in the hot fields and bathe in a stream, while the court solemnly passes by on horseback in the foreground. How different peasant existence must have been from that of the Due de Berry's: oatmeal instead of capons, water instead of wine and straw mattresses instead of featherbeds.


Herman, Jean and Paul Limbourg
(c. 1385/1390-c. 1416)
The Month of August
From Les Tres Rukes Fleures du Due de Berry
Illuminated manuscript
Musee Conde, Chantilly


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