In the usual sequence of a Book of Hours, the cycle
of hours proper followed the extracts from the Gospel
and the two prayers to the Virgin. Eight hours of the
day supplemented the regular offices of the church:
matins, lauds, prime, terce, sext, nones, vespers, and
The Très Riches Heures includes several series of hours grouped by the object of their devotion : Hours of the Virgin, Hours of the Cross, Hours of the Holy Ghost, and Hours of the Passion.
The Hours of the Virgin were traditionally illustrated by scenes representing the main episodes in the mystical life of Mary, each corresponding to a canonical hour: the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity, the Annunciation to the Shepherds, the Adoration of the Magi, the Presentation in the Temple, the Flight into Egypt, and the Coronation of the Virgin.
Here Mary is shown kneeling at a prie-dieu in a delicately decorated chapel, in which we notice small statues of the prophets on the left. Upon hearing the angel's greeting, she half-turns with a gesture of surprise and modesty.
The angel kneels before her, presenting in one hand a green stem with three lilies and in the other a scroll inscribed with the Biblical text of the Annunciation, "Ave gratia plena." In a kind of cantoria at the very top of the chapel other angels lean forward to see the scene in which they join with music and song.
Around this traditional representation, which is painted on an archaic blue background brocaded with foliage, the Limbourgs used all their inventiveness to create an original and fanciful setting.
In the upper left God the Father, surrounded by a heavenly choir, contemplates and blesses the scene, while all around the page angels on foliage celebrate Annunciation with their varied instruments.
Below, the symbolic bear and swan, placed on either side of three angels, hold the arms of the Duc de Berry. Each one of these decorative elements is treated with exquisite delicacy, subtlety, and infallible taste both in design and in the use of light and harmonious colors.
small image (26KB) --- large image (268KB) --- God the Father (large) (235KB) --- The Annunciation (large) (259KB) --- Bas-de-page decorations (large) (206KB)