June, Girls Working in a Field, Limbourg Brothers (active from 1390-1416), from Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, c. 1412. Musee Conde, Chantilly. WikiCommons.

This image is from a very famous French Gothic illuminated manuscript called Les Tres Riches Heures created by Pol, Jean, and Herman Limbourg, better known as the Limbourg brothers. They were quite famous book illuminators. A book of hours is a collection of prayers that are to be said at the canonical hours that mark the divisions of the day.

The three Limbourg brothers, of Netherlandish descent, showed both nobility and peasantry in their works, as well as naturalistic settings and realistically painted figures. This Book of Hours depicts the royal palace in Paris, complete with the plants in the queen’s garden and the palace chapel.

This extremely lavish book was made for one man, the royal bibliophile and patron John, the Duc de Berry. Interestingly, the duke and the three brothers all died in 1416, presumably of the plague, and the book was left unfinished, completed later by other artisans.

The 12 calendar pictures form the first part of the book and are some of the most famous in the history of manuscript illuminations. The zodiac symbols are included at the top in a lunette, following the month as each day passes. Each month includes corresponding activities. These activities range from extravagant feasts to peasants working in the fields outside of the palace, kind of like a medieval diary.

This particular illustration depicts a rustic scene with peasants working out in the fields, outside of the palace gates, in the month of June. Two women are in the foreground, while it appears that three men work in the background. Most of the girls represented in this book are symbolic and represent ideals rather than actual individuals. These images help us to form an idea of the activities an social structure of the late Middle Ages. While the women are clearly in peasant dress and barefoot, they are still shown as being clean. However, their dresses are a bit low cut and tight in the waist for outdoor laboring, and the men are a bit immodest one with his tunic hiked up above his waist.

Pin It on Pinterest