April, from the Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry

Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry April

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.

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9 Comments to “April, from the Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry”

  1. Puberty 101 says:

    Wow! This painting is just heavenly. I always love the various colors and how they are used brilliantly on a painting. Awesome!

  2. Catherine Delors says:

    You are most welcome, Viola, and certainly it was customary to wait until the bride reached actual puberty before the marriage was consummated.

  3. Catherine Delors says:

    Judith, Felio, I couldn’t agree more! The man holding the sun in the chariot is a symbol of the path of the sun across the zodiac. It is the same design for all of the months, but the half-circle above him indicates the signs the sun crosses during any given month. For April it is of course Aries and Taurus.

  4. Viola says:

    Often the couple didn’t actually live together until the girl reached puberty, I think?

    Thank you for the beautiful miniature.

  5. Felio Vasa says:

    Hi Catherine,
    I agree with Judith- the colors are simply gorgeous. Can you explain the scene at the top under the zodiac – is it a man in a carriage holding the sun?

  6. Hello Catherine,

    Love this painting!
    And I am dreaming with Paris in bloom!

    ~ Gabriela ~

  7. Catherine Delors says:

    Thanks, Judith!

    Penny – The Church required that the groom be 14 and the bride 12, which were deemed the respective ages of sexual maturity for males and females. Of course, then as now, there was a great deal of individual variation in the onset of menses. However, whenever a marriage was politically important, as was the case here, it was often celebrated even if the bride had not yet reached puberty.

  8. Penny says:

    Beautiful as usual.
    but has the bride started menustruating? i assume marriage was for continuation of his family line,so isn’t 12 young to have started menses? wouldn’t they have waited for it?

  9. Judith says:

    I have always loved this painting. The colors are just beautiful! Great post!

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