Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry: October

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Limbourg Brothers, Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry: October, 1413

The book of hours, as seen in Shrek, is a prayer book that came in to popularity in the early 15th century. The most common type of surviving illuminated transcript, books of hours normally consisted of prayers, psalms, and meditations. Being an illuminated manuscript, in addition to the text, the book contained decorations. The decorations required highly-detailed work, especially with the miniatures - small-scaled medieval paintings that were popular at the time of illuminated manuscripts. The most impressive surviving book of hours is Les Tres Riches Heurs, painted by the Dutch Limbourg brothers. They began the work in 1413 and left it incomplete at their deaths in 1416. They were still in their thirties, and their cause of death most likely due to the plague that was ravaging Europe. The book of hours was completed seventy years later by a French painter Jean Colombe around 1485.

The Limbourg brothers painted the Tres Riches Heures for Jean de France, Duke de Berry, who was the third son of John II and an important member of nobility in 15th century France. He was a connoisseur of visual arts of the medieval period, and loved art and literature. His collection consisted of castles, gems, and a magnificent collection of books, which included the Tres Riches Heures. The Limbourg brothers painted on 206 vellum leaves, the highest quality available at the time. Vellum is the highest quality of parchment, which was normally reserved for important manuscripts, and lasted far longer than papyrus.

The painting for the month of October gives the most accurate and complete view of the Louvre of Charles V. The Louvre, originally a fortress in the 12th century, underwent several alterations before becoming the museum we know today. It was altered by Charles V in the 14th century, then converted into a residence in the early-16th century under Francis I. In the early 18th-century there was wide spread talk of creating a gallery, to showcase the Royal collection. The Royal museum became reality under Louis XVI and became free to the public, with 537 paintings, three days of the week after the fall of the monarchy. The museum's collection would continue to increase through Napoleon’s military conquests.

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