Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry

The Crucifixion

Folio 152v

Again two miniatures of contrasting colors face each other: the Crucifixion and the Death of Christ, placed conventionally before the Office of Nones.
The former was painted by Jean Colombe, although the setting suggests a sketch by the Limbourgs, which he obviously did not follow. In comparing this scene with the two following miniatures by the three brothers, we immediately notice the different placement of the crosses and the crucified figures.
Notably, the thief on the left is no longer shown from the back in the extraordinary position that the Limbourgs gave him. It appears that from the original drawing only the arrangement of the crosses was maintained, an arrangement common in fifteenth-century paintings and due, Smile Male believes, to the influence of the settings of religious theater at that time (L'art religieux de la fin du moyen âge en France, p. 49, no.1).
Had the Limbourgs executed this miniature, which represents the climax of the Hours of the Passion, it would have completed a perfect uninterrupted cycle of major paintings.
It is neither Colombe's strongest nor weakest contribution to the manuscript, but its reddish and blue colors and ordinary composition indeed break the unity of the cycle.
The three crosses dominate the crowd of citizens and soldiers whose banners and lances bristle around them. The onlookers, including several mounted figures in the foreground, press around the Cross.
Christ is dying; the thief on the left looks toward Him while the other tries to avert his gaze.
On the lower left, a group consisting of the fainting Virgin supported by Saint John and the three Holy Women, is less moving than the same group in the Death of Christ.
Under the horse on the right are the skull and bones traditionally thought to be those of Adam, unearthed when the Cross was fixed in the ground.

small image (44KB) --- large image (303KB) --- Christ on the Cross (large) (244KB) --- The crowd of soldiers and citizens (large) (307KB) --- The Virgin and the Holy Women (large) (289KB)

Next folio --- Previous folio --- Return to index