Friday, 26 July 2013

'July' by Pol Limbourg (Summer Landscape #1)

I'm returning to the representation of the seasons and months of the year in paintings of landscapes.  In part, I do this because I very much enjoy records of the land at different times of the year but also as encouragement to landscape painters to create more paintings recording the land in specific seasons and months.

This is Juillet (July) in the body of work known as Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry created by the flemish painters, the Limbourg Brothers working for John, Duc de Berry (1340-1416) the third son of King John II of France. It's been identified as the work of Paul (or Pol) Limbourg.

Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry Folio 7, verso: July
illumination on vellum
Height: 22.5 cm (8.9 in). Width: 13.6 cm (5.4 in)
Musée Condé, Chantilly, France
This particular painting is painted as a miniature illumination on vellum (note the size) and was created sometime between between 1412 and 1416.

 It shows sheep being sheered - using big sheep shears - and grain being harvested using a sickle.  The sky is of course blue and the clouds are high and sparse as one often gets in mid summer.  A translation of a description in French (now updated as per Alyson's comment) reads as follows
"The labours of the month of July show the harvest and shearing of sheep. Two characters mow the wheat, each using a volant and a stick. A volant is a long, open sickle with the handle at the corner of the flat of the blade. With the help of the stick, they separate a bunch of wheat stems which they then cut with a pass of the blade. The harvesters advance by going around the outside of the parcel of land, working towards the centre. One of the harvesters has a whetstone on his belt. Two other characters, one of whom is a woman, use shears to cut the wool of sheep. With the exception of the imaginary mountains, the landscape shows, in the foreground, the Boivre River where it flows into the Clain, near the palace of the Count of Poitiers."
In the background is the Palace of Poitiers - which was rebuilt by Jean I, duc de Berry between 1384-86.

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1 comment:

Alyson Champ said...

I have always wanted to see these illuminations, but likely never will. Here, though, is a somewhat improved translation of the French text. I can find no word for volant, except that it is obviously a hand scythe of some sort.

"The labours of the month of July show the harvest and shearing of sheep. Two characters mow the wheat, each using a volant and a stick. A volant is a long, open sickle with the handle at the corner of the flat of the blade. With the help of the stick, they separate a bunch of wheat stems which they then cut with a pass of the blade. The harvesters advance by going around the outside of the parcel of land, working towards the centre. One of the harvesters has a whetstone on his belt. Two other characters, one of whom is a woman, use shears to cut the wool of sheep. With the exception of the imaginary mountains, the landscape shows, in the foreground, the Boivre River where it flows into the Clain, near the palace of the Count of Poitiers."

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