the Limbourg brothers gebroeders Van Limburg
gebroeders Van Limburg

Design: LaVerbe

Les Très Riches Heures

This manuscript, which the Limbourg brothers were working on until their death in 1416, is the most famous manuscript from the Middle Ages. The miniatures from this book, and particularly the twelve miniatures that illustrate the calendar in the book and that show a typical scene for each month, have been reproduced thousands of times. They appear to us, though incorrectly, to depict daily life and to summarise a period that the historian Johan Huizinga called the 'The Waning of the Middle Ages'.

We see farmers busy with their daily chores and the pastimes of the nobility; everything is situated in enchanting landscapes with the most beautiful castles in the background. But there are also inspiring religious tableaux, night scenes, and impressive expressions of atmospheric phenomena. The roughly one hundred Limbourg brothers' paintings reveal an imperfect perspective, but are technically and artistically of an extremely high quality, and the choice of subject matter is both daring and refreshing.

In 1415 Jan Limbourg died. Herman and Paul continued to work on the manuscript until the death of their patron and friend, Jean de Berry, in 1416. The work never was completed; only about a third of the planned miniatures were actually created. A few months later, Herman and Paul also died under circumstances that were never clear; it is possible that they fell victim to an epidemic. There has been speculation that it was the plague, which had ravaged the continent since the fourteenth century. It may also have been related to the defence of the city of Bourges, during which all able-bodied men were required to serve. When they died, the brothers were no older than 35 years, so the latter explanation is a real possibility.