April, from the Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry
Lilacs, wisterias, tulips, apple trees, everything is blooming in Paris. People are already flocking to the terraces of the cafes to enjoy this beautiful spring day. A reminder that the month will be over before we know it.
I could not let it pass without posting this miniature from the Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry. Now that you have become familiar with the style of the artists who illustrated this masterpiece of medieval art, you may recognize the style and themes of the “courtly” Limbourg brother.
April was traditionally represented by young women gathering flowers. Here Limbourg respected this convention by showing us the two ladies in the relatively simple dresses to the right of the picture. But the Tres Riches Heures never stop at conventional representations. The artist also added the intriguing scene to the left. A beautifully attired couple exchanges rings while a boy, another man and woman look on. Is this an engagement? And who are these characters?
I believe (and admit that it is simply a guess) that the man in the blue and gold coat is the Duc de Berry himself. He is represented in a similar garment elsewhere, and he commissioned the book.
He was married first, at the age of twenty, to Jeanne d’Armagnac, and after her death, to Jeanne de Boulogne, who survived him. At the time of this second union he was fifty and the bride was twelve. A huge age difference for us, but not one that would have shocked contemporaries. So I would say this lovely scene represents the engagement of the Duc de Berry and young Jeanne de Boulogne.