Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry

Anatomical Man

Folio 14v

This symbolic picture, of a type found in calendars of the late fifteenth century and known as an "anatomical man" ("astrological man" would be a better appellation), exists in no other illuminated manuscript.
An extension of the calendar, to which it was added in the form of an inset page, the present example is a remarkable exception explained by Charles V's passionate interest in astrology, shared by his brothers and satisfied by his astrologer, Thomas Pisani, father of the celebrated Christine de Pisan.
The miniature claims to show the influence of the zodiacal stars on the human hody. According to the comments inscribed in the corners, humanity can he divided into several different categories.
First, temperaments are based on one of the four traditional humors: sanguinous or full-blooded, phlegmatic or lymphatic, choleric or bilious, and melancholic or acrimonious. Man may he further categorized according to his degree of heat or dryness, according to the proportions of masculinity or femininity of his character, and finally, what is more obscure, in relationship to the cardinal points.
Combinations of these categories result in four main groupings of the signs of the zodiac: Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius are hot and dry, choleric, masculine, and oriental; Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn are cold and dry, melancholic, feminine, and occidental; Gemini, Aquarius, and Libra are hot and wet, masculine, sanguinous, and meridional; Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces are cold and wet, phlegmatic, feminine, and nordic. Such categories and connections were held dear in the Middle Ages.
Two figures standing back to back illustrate these categories. The frontal figure is slenderer and obviously represents the feminine character, the figure seen from the back and only in part is more vigorous, representing the masculine character. One is blonde, the other dark in contrast. The Limbourgs succeeded in making a graceful image of these figures.
Fernand de Mely has noted that the female figure seems to he inspired from an ancient group of the Three Graces, now in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena. The signs of the zodiac are shown on the figure at the points where they influence the human hody: Aries the ram is at the head, Taurus the bull at the neck, and so on to Pisces at the feet.
In an almond-shaped hand around both figures the signs of the zodiac are repeated, a little differently from those in the calendar months but not without grace. Above, just under the inscriptions in the upper corners, are painted the arms of the Duc de Berry, while in the lower corners are the mysterious initials, VE, inexplicably adopted by him.

small image (47KB) --- large image (298KB) --- Upper left detail (large) (248KB) --- Upper right detail (large) (239KB) --- Center left detail (large) (203KB) --- Center right detail (large) (212KB) --- Lower left detail (large) (233KB) --- Lower right detail (large) (225KB)

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