For the Ofice of the Dead, which occupies an
important position in the Très Riches Heures, Jean
Colombe executed five large miniatures (folios 82r, 86v, 90v, 95r and 100v). Representing nearly a quarter of his contribution to the manuscript, they are indicative of the nature of his illustrations therein.
The scene of Job mocked by his friends heads the cycle. Lessons taken from the Book of Job were placed in matins for the dead to symbolize the bitterness and misery of existence, the weariness of life, the anguish before death and judgment, and at the same time, the confidence one must have in God the Redeemer.
We see Job on the dung heap before his ruined home. His body is covered with sores and his ribs show through his skin, but his miserable appearance does not deter his friends, of whom he begs pity, from jeering at him.
They remind him of the words with which he used to comfort the weak and unhappy: Ubi est timor tuus, fortitudo tua, patientia tua, et perfectio viarum tuarum?" ("Where is thy fear, thy fortitude, thy patience, and the perfection of thy ways?" [Job IV: 6])
Jean Colombe has executed this miniature with particular care, rendering the expressions and gestures of the figures with such an effort at realism that Job's suffering and his friends' disparaging quibbling are almost exaggerated
. The scene is framed by a pleasant landscape; in contrast to Job's ravaged house is a magnificent château, perhaps a favorite home of the Duc and Duchesse de Savoie, the artist's patrons at the time.
The painting's architectural framework, of the type favored by Jean Colombe, is rather curious with its fragments of pink and turquoise marble columns, jewel-studded pillars and strange statuettes, probably in silver, which represent gesticulating corpses.
Two stages of burial have been painted in the base ofthe frame: on the right a funeral procession is escorted by the weepers who first appeared at the beginning of the fifteenth century with the burial of Philippe le Hardi, Duc de Bourgogne, and on the left a burial in a church vault is shown.
small image (40KB) --- large image (302KB) --- The château (large) (237KB) --- Job being mocked by his friends (large) (253KB)