Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry

December

Folio 12v

With the month of December representing the end of a wild boar hunt in the forest of Vincennes, we return to the Limbourgs and the Duc de Berry.
The dungeon and square towers rising above the trees are those of the home in which the Duke was born on the eve of December: November 30, 1340. At that time the Château de Vincennes had not reached the proportions shown here, and the dungeon, begun three years before, consisted only of its foundations.
The enormous rectangular enclosure flanked by the nine towers seen in the miniature was undertaken only in 1364 by Charles V, "sage artiste, savant architecteur" ("wise artist, learned architect") in the words of his biographer Christine de Pisan (c. 1365-after 1430), to make the château "La demeure de plusieurs seigneurs, chevaliers et autres ses mieux aimées" ("the home of several lords, knights and other beloved ones").
He subsequently deposited part of his art treasures, precious manuscripts, and fortune here. Several towers of the ensemble were partially razed during the course of the centuries.
Still standing in their entirety, however, are the main tower which served as entrance and the magnificent dungeon that Jean Fouquet (born c. 1420) some time after the Limbourgs, painted in miniature in the Heures d'Étienne Chevalier.
The forests of Vincennes attracted many kings of France. Louis VII built a hunting lodge there; Philippe Auguste undertook the construction of a small château enlarged by Saint Louis, who, as we know, liked to dispense popular justice under one of its oaks. This is the wood we see represented here in the russet tones of a waning autumn.
The boar has been run down and speared by the huntsman on the left, and hounds are tearing it apart. At the right a hunter blows the mort on his small horn.
The dogs' desperate eagerness is rendered with astonishing realism: their positions, the gestures of their paws, their greedy expressions, all have been observed and noted with care. These are bloodhounds, boarhounds, hounds whose breeding an expert would recognize immediately.
This scene is perhaps the liveliest in a calendar full of lively images; it completes the year in an appropriate seting and time, recalling the birth of the Duc de Berry.

small image (21KB) --- large image (211KB) --- Zodiac (large) (214KB) --- Château de Vincennes (detail) (197KB) --- Wild Boar hunt (detail) (222KB)

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