March, from the Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry

Ah, March! Spring is almost here.

Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry MarchSince many have expressed interest in the series of the months in the Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, we will follow these gorgeous images through the year.

Here the artist shows us peasants at work after the long hiatus of winter. The snows have melted, the soil is soft enough to allow ploughing and seeding. It is time to trim the grapevines, the sheep are out in the fields. Note the tattered clothes of the man in the foreground. There is no attempt at idealization of the life of the poor.

In the background, by contrast, a faithful representation of one of the Duc de Berry’s favorite residences, the chateau de Lusignan. And above the image, the zodiac signs of March: Pisces and Aries.

If you go back to my February post in the same series, you will immediately feel that the artist is not the same. Do you notice anything strikingly different here? Oh, it is one of the Limbourg brothers all right, but not February’s Rustic. This one is called le Maître des Ombres, the “Master of the Shadows.” This Limbourg is a fearless innovator: he includes shadows in his depiction of the world (those of the man and oxen at the plough in the foreground.)

The artist wants to show us reality not as we “think” it, but as we see it, shadows and all. This marks the beginning of the end of medieval illustration and already foreshadows, if I may be allowed this harmless pun, the Renaissance.

Let’s enjoy this wonderful picture and dream of spring…

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