Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry


Folio 9v

This representation of the grape harvest at the foot of the Château de Saumur is distinctive because it was begun by Paul de Limbourg and his brothers, and completed seventy years later by Jean Colombe.
The different styles are evident in the tonalities of color, delicacy of techniques, and nature of the figures. The Limbourgs executed the upper two-thirds.
Traditionally, the background was, in fact, the first part of a miniature to be executed; sky, landscape and architectural decor were then followed by the foreground, figures, and last of all the faces, as we shall see later in the Procession of Saint Gregory (folios 71v-72r).
The Château de Saumur, near Angers, belonged to a nephew of the Duc de Berry, Duc Louis II d'Anjou, who had completed its construction at the end of the fourteenth century. It appears here in all its fresh newness: chimneys, pinnacles and weathervanes crowned with golden fleurs-de-lys thrust skyward.
It is drawn in a firm bold line that includes every detail and reveals the sure hand of that one of the three brothers attracted to architectural representations and responsible also for the Palais de la Citè in June and the Louvre in October.
The château stands to this day, although the crowning crenellations have disappeared, and is easily recognizable in this miniature by the buttressed towers, battlements, glacis, and general arrangement of the buildings.
On the left we glimpse a belfry that might belong to the church of Saint-Pierre; next is a monumental chimney with secondary stacks undoubtedly belonging to the kitchen and comparable to those at the nearby abbey of Fontevrault; and last, a drawbridge entrance from which a horse walks while a woman with a basket on her head approaches.
The harvest scene itself was executed by Jean Colombe. He probably worked over a sketch by the Limbourgs since miniatures were completely and lightly drawn before being painted.
We can see the gathering of the grapes in the famous Angevin vineyard. Aproned women and young men pick the purple-colored clusters of grapes and fill baskets to be loaded into hampers hanging from the mules or into vats on the wagons. One of the mules burdened with baskets is in the section painted by the Limbourgs and was probably executed by them.
Compared to that of his predecessors, Jean Colombe's work is less refined: the touch is less delicate, the color more blurred and dull, the figures shorter and less elegant.
Although Jean Colombe was a good miniaturist, his work does not bear close comparison with Paul de Limbourg's; especially here in the same painting where the difference in methods stands out obviously.
Nevertheless, this harvest scene is one of the most picturesque and beautiful in the calendar.

small image (25KB) --- large image (243KB) --- detail (large) (220KB) --- Château de Saumur (detail) (215KB) --- Grape harvest (detail) (260KB) --- Harvest scene (detail) (264KB)

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