Since Jean Colombe had already represented Pentecost in the Très Riches Heures (folio 79r), he illustrated
Tuesday, the day of the Holy Ghost, with a picture
of the apostles, inspired by the Holy Ghost, going
forth to preach the Gospel.
The subject is not new; earlier artists had shown the apostles shod and setting out for their journeys to different parts of the world. The innovation here is their leave-taking of the Virgin Mary, who traditionally accompanied them spiritually.
This scene probably reflects the influence of the staging of contemporaneous religious theater, such as the Conversion saint Pol in which the apostles take advantage of their farewell to Mary to ask her for advice:
Mais allons ainçois, je vous prie,
Savoir de la Vierge Marie,
S'ell nouse voudra rien commander.
Approaching Mary here are a curly-hearded Peter
and Matthew. The heavy physiognomy of the first is
typical of many of Jean Colombe's figures, while the
expression of the second is softened by a flowing
white heard and a thinner face. Touched by their
behavior, the Virgin greets them with a gesture of
both hands; behind her stand the rapt Holy Women,
also mentioned in Acts.
The other apostles have already started out, not in the traditional groups of three but in pairs, so that we actually see only eight apostles, not twelve. John is recognizable because he is beardless, but the others do not have any distinctive characteristics.
Three groups leave in the different directions marked hy the fork in the road. Traditionally, some, like John and Philip, went to Asia Minor and Galatia; others, as in the case of Jude and Simon, went to Mesopotamia and Egypt; while still others, like Andrew and James the Greater, went to Greece or distant Spain.
Here, their routes are scattered with châteaus, lakes, and mountains. The Golden Legend states that the apostles were miraculously reunited at the Virgin's bedside at the time of her death.
small image (32KB) --- large image (256KB) --- Landscape (large) (158KB) --- The apostles leave in pairs (large) (208KB) --- The Virgin, Peter and the Holy Women (large) (222KB)