Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry


Folio 3v

The Limbourgs present here the year's first farm work, in a broad landscape at the foot of the Chateau de Lusignan. Several scenes of country life are juxtaposed.
On the upper left, a shepherd and his dog watch a flock of sheep; below them, three peasants trim vines within an enclosure; on the right, another enclosure, with a house, seems to surround more vineyards; below that, a peasant leans over an open bag. A small monument known as a Montjoie rises at the intersection of paths separating the different plots; a customary sign or milestone, it resembles one on a subsequent page representing the Meeting of the Magi (folio 51v).
A beautiful picture of plowing occupies the foreground. A white-bearded peasant wearing a surcoat over a blue tunic holds the plow handle with his left hand and goads the oxen with his right. The two oxen are differently colored; the fine reddish hide of the near one stands out in relief against the other, black, animal. Every detail of the plow is carefully recorded. The plowshare penetrates earth covered with faded winter grass, churning it into furrows that are distinctly marked by already dried blades of grass.
These rustic scenes are dominated by the powerful Château de Lusignan, above which hovers the fairy Mélusine, protectress of the château who turned into a winged dragon on Saturdays, recalling the legend of its construction. (Mélusine promised to make Raimondin, son of the king of the Bretons, the first nobleman of the realm if he married her, on condition that he never see her on Saturday, the day of her metamorphosis. Raimondin's curiosity got the better of him, and Mélusine flew away from the château in the form of a winged dragon.
The artists have meticulously depicted the château's different parts: the Tour Poitevine below the fairy, the queen's quarters, the Tour Mélusine, the Tour de L'Horloge, the Barbacane, and the two enceintes. This was one of the Duc de Berry's favorite residences; the improvements he made on it are evident in the high windows of the royal quarters and the Tour Mélusine.
The month of March is the first of the great landscapes favored hy the Limbourgs in the Très Riches Heures. It is rendered with such veracity that one wonders if they had access to some optical device, a dark room, or rather a "light room," which would have lent such linear and proportional exactitude to their work.
Furthermore, with the delicacy of their brush they have achieved an extraordinary precision of detail without detracting from the overall effect of grandeur imparted by Mélusine's château forcefully standing out against the blue sky.

small image (22KB) --- large image (214KB) --- detail (large) (199KB) --- Château de Lusignan (detail) (192KB) --- Old man with a plough (detail) (207KB)

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