The Limbourg Brothers – Their Finest Hours
It must have been the titles of the fabulous works created by the brothers Limbourg in the 15th century which hardly made me realise before that these stunning artists came from the Netherlands, as the titles of the works they are most renowned for, the magnificent miniatures, are in French:
Belles Heures (the Beautiful Hours) and Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (The Very Rich Hours of the Duke of Berry).
The books of Hours contain canonical prayers for each hour of the day.
Anyone who has an interest in art or has looked at an overview of art history comes across images of these highly refined extraordinary beautiful miniatures, which were ordered by Jean, Duke of Berry in France.
Apart from their fantastic work, time has left us with two main impressions of the story of the lives of Herman, Paul and Jean de Limbourg as they were called.
They were famous during their lifetimes and they died when they were barely thirty years old.
The Limburg brothers were born in Nijmegen (in the east of the Netherlands) between 1385 and 1390, in a family of artists and craftsmen: their uncle Maelwael was court painter to the queen of France, Herman and Jean were trained as goldsmiths and Paul started as an illuminator.
The Limbourg brothers started to work for the art lover and art collector Duke of Berry in 1403, and the Duke commissioned the Beautiful Hours (Belles Heures) in 1405, for which they were very well paid and honoured. It is the only work with miniatures that the Limbourg brothers completed entirely.
The relationship between the brothers and the Duke can be seen as quite special. One record tells us that the Limbourg brothers seem to have received a ruby stone, set in a golden ring, as security for a large sum that the Duke owed them and another record describes a gift from the brothers to the Duke, that turned out to be a fake book covered in white velvet with two silver locks but white pages inside.
The three illuminators and their patron died in 1416, possibly all victims of the plague, leaving the manuscript of the Très Riches Heures unfinished.
The Belles Heures du Duc de Berry is held in The Cloisters of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry is in the Musée Condé in the castle of Chantilly, just north of Paris.
Reproductions on Amazon
1st Art Gallery from Très Riches Heures – Juin (June) and Juillet (July)
well detailed oil on canvas
guaranteed real painting with brushstrokes
large variety in sizes (the miniature artists impress us more and more)
From Belles Heures – detail from Annunciation (Various reproducers)
More facts and references:
with a contribution of Roger Wieck, curator of Pierpont Morgan Library New York