Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry

The Purification of the Virgin

Folio 54v

The Gospel of Luke states that after the Virgin's days of purification (forty, in accordance with the law of Moses) were accomplished, Mary brought her child to Jerusalem to present Him in the Temple of the Lord, where she made an offering of two turtle doves.
The Limbourgs represented this scene at the beginning of nones. Their composition is strikingly similar to Taddeo Gaddi's fresco of the mid-fourteenth century, Tbe Presentation of tbe Virgin, in Santa Croce, Florence. Certain details, such as the children at the bottom of the stairs, are identical. Yet there are distinct differences, beginning with the subject matter.
In the Florentine work, the central figure on the stairs is Mary the child; here, it is curiously no longer the Virgin but a young woman carrying the sacrificial doves, whose body sways in the characteristic fashion of contemporaneous French painting.
Does this mean that the Limbourgs were inspired by the fresco? Even if they had not seen the original or any of its Italian copies existing in Florence, Prato, and Padua, they might have come upon an Italian drawing in one of the princely collections or upon one of the numerous sketches or plans that circulated freely in the workshops as a result of the extensive international travels of artists at that time. It is therefore impossible to know exactly what directly or indirectly influenced the brothers.
The Virgin stands at the foot of the stairs, holding the Christ Child, who is covered by His mother's blue mantle. Behind her stands Joseph, wearing an oriental hat and robes.
To emphasize local color, the artists have adorned the figures on the right with picturesque costumes - robes embroidered with arabesques and high, peaked headgear. The High Priest at the head of the stairs wears a golden tiara.
The architectural setting is sumptuous: the staircase is of different colored marbles, and the Temple vaults are painted red. Figures staring from the windows of a neighboring house add anecdotal animation to the scene.

small image (26KB) --- large image (266KB) --- The high priest (large) (253KB) --- The Virgin, the Child, Joseph and the maiden (large) (248KB)

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