Limborg Brothers, Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (c. 1410)

Limborg Brothers, Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (c. 1410). Illumination on vellum, 22.5 x 13.6 cm. Musée Condé, Chantilly, France. No longer available to see by the public.

January: Revelers exchange gifts at the New Year

February: Deep winter, peasants are shown in their homes staying warm by fires. The countryside is blanketed in snow.

March: Sowing the harvest. Château de Lusignan in the background.

April: With Spring comes love, a betrothed couple. Château de Dourdan in the background.

May: Procession to Paris, the Duke's Hôtel de Neslé is in the background.

June: Harvest Time! The Palais de la Cité forms the backdrop.

The Book of Hours of the Duke of Berry is one of the most important illuminated manuscripts in the Northern tradition during the 15th century. Unusual for a Book of Hours because it contains a full calendar of saint's days and festivals, the illustrated calendar is its standout component. Executed by the Dutch Limborg Brothers, Herman, Paul, and Johan, who are the most famous Northern Renaissance miniature painters, it was commissioned by the Duke of Berry. The calendar illustrations depict the months of the year and are identifiable by the activity going on within the image. I have included a list below of the various illustrations and their meanings. Also present in the illustrations are depictions of the Duke's various estates. They form the backdrop for every work and are magnificent in their detail.

Books of Hours were a common prayer book in the Medieval period that were widely commissioned by the wealthy elite. Many have multiple illustrations but the great number in this particular Book was unprecedented. The manuscript itself contains over 400 pages, has 131 miniature paintings and over 300 decorated capital letters. This work is the exemplar of border illustrations and text illustration. Though small the works make up in quality what they lack in size. The intricate detailing and lively expressions make these tiny paintings seem as vibrant as a van Eyck, whose brother oddly enough helped with the decorations.

July: The Sheep's Fur is Sheared, Château du Clain.

August: Hunting Season, Château d'Étampes.

September: Grapes are Gathered at the Château de Saumur.

October: With the Louvre in the background the fields are being tilled.

November: Acorns are Picked.

December: Boar Hunting, Château de Vincennes.


  1. Lydia, I've been loving your blog, and, since I am a bibliophile working in a rare book collection, especially appreciate this entry. By far, the highlight of my job is interacting with the manuscripts, some of which have fantastic illuminations and marginalia... though nothing like this. Thanks for introducing me to it!


  2. Dear Lydia!

    Thank you for this presentation!
    I love these illuminations! I am living in Stockholm, Sweden.
    I found your beautiful blog by searching for "Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry".
    I now put this blog to the blogs I follow!

    Kind regards