the Limbourg brothers gebroeders Van Limburg
gebroeders Van Limburg

Design: LaVerbe

Les Belles Heures

The Duke of Berry commissioned the Limbourg brothers to create a rich and unique book of hours. Usually a book of hours, designed for the private devotion of laymen as a prayer book to be used on specific occasions, had a set construction with a standard layout of decorations. Jean de Berry wanted to embellish these decorations, and together with the brothers and his advisors, designed new and somewhat defiant themes centred on a selection of both conventional and less conventional texts. Ultimately the brothers painted a full 172 miniatures for this manuscript. Ordinarily, a rather luxurious book of hours would be considered quite opulent with just twenty or so miniatures. Sometime in the spring of 1409, the Duke was able to hold his newly completed treasure for the first time.

Les Belles Heures demonstrated the extent to which the Limbourg brothers' talents had developed since their first commission, the Bible Moralisée for Philip the Bold. Their drawing was more confident, their compositions more balanced, though their distinctive style remained. With this development in the back of his mind, the Duke felt he could push his artists to even greater heights, and decided to extend a commission for an extremely richly illuminated book of hours unlike any that had ever been made before: Les Très Riches Heures.