Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry


Folio 79r

To begin the Hours of the Holy Ghost, Jean Colombe painted Pentecost, grouping in a circle beneath a shining white dove not only the twelve apostles but also the Virgin and other disciples, including two women. This representation was traditional, although the Acts of the Apostles states only, "they were all together in one place. " (Acts II: 1)
This is not one of the artist's best miniatures: the men have unpleasant faces thickened with beards and even the Virgin is ungraceful. Jean Porcher writes, "Burdened with commissions, about which he complained bad temperedly, Colombe was capable of the best and of the worst; he often let assistants finish works which he had only sketched rapidly on a bit of parchment."
Such was probably the case with this illustration, which is inferior to the Man of Sorrows (folio 75r) or the Entombment (folio 157r). He seems to have taken more interest in the setting, in the somewhat heavy gold frame and the architectural decoration of the hall. Obviously attracted by details of the new architecture of the early Italian Renaissance, this brother of the sculptor Michel Colombe imagined statues, medallions, and bas-reliefs which are infinitely more interesting than the poses or expressions of the figures.
Wishing to use the whole page to give an architectural dimension to his framework, Jean Colombe erased the first lines of a verse from Psalm L, inscribed at the bottom of the space reserved for the miniature, and rewrote it in capital letters at the base of the frame under the medallions: "Domine, labia mea aperies et os meum. " "O Lord, thou wilt open my lips: and my tongue shall declare thy praise." Here the lines apply to the descent of the Holy Ghost.

small image (42KB) --- large image (345KB) --- The Holy Spirit (large) (280KB) --- The Virgin and the apostles (large) (287KB) --- Bas-de-page (large) (286KB)

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