09 November 2008
Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry: Janvier, the feast of exchanging gifts
Agence-Vleeptron Presse has received a six-star review of the 15th century illuminated manuscript Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, and is pleased to present another page.
The artists who created this book over the course of a century seem to have been Flemish and Dutch.
This is a depiction -- in gorgeous detail -- of a party for nobility to exchange gifts in January. This is how they dressed, this is what they ate, this is what the hall looked like. A magnificent hunting dog is evident, but I'm not sure what animals are eating on the table -- cats? Stoats? Perhaps they are a common household mammal or miniature dog breed from the 1400s which has subsequently gone extinct.
Note the Zodiac constellations Capricorn the Goat and Aquarius the Water-Bearer. This would be as meaningful to designate the season of this festival as a calendar is to us.
Below, either a military parade (no actual injury or violence is depicted, just some patriotic blustering), tournament, or a war. If anyone recognizes the battle standards or the eagle and lion emblems on the shields, please Leave A Comment. The fleur-de-lys (lily or iris) is the emblem of the French royal house of Bourbon; the ducs de Berry were usually brothers of the King.
I don't know the meaning of the swans or really any of the heraldry. The dynastic and regional names to watch for are Berry, Auvergne, Poitiers, Montpensier, Luxemburg, Anjou, Naples and Burgundy. Leave A Lot Of Comments.
I think the fellow with the big knife is diving enthusiastically into a platter of squabs or game birds -- pheasants, quail. The best cooking in the nation or in Europe became an important lure to maintain powerful and influential courts -- castles with lots of rich and powerful people who loved to stay there because the place was well-heated in winter and food was plentiful and delicious; they would do much for the King and Queen or Duke and Duchess who invited them to spend the winter at the castle.
Henry VIII (who was, coincidentally, very fond of eating) made a huge investment in making his English court known as the best and most popular cuisine in all Europe -- specifically trying to steal the thunder of the French, German, Italian and Spanish courts. Frivolous as it sounds, these were important political initiatives in peacetime, which paid dividends of alliances in war. Princesses may not have had much say in whom they were married to, but they were not shy about expressing their preferences for warm castles with plenty of delicious food and lots of fancy parties with hot music. This was around the time of Europe's Little Ice Age, when Central Heating was invented.