This most lavish manuscript ranks among the most famous and precious books of the world and its miniatures among the most beautiful of the Middle Ages. The script is of extreme beauty and clarity and richly decorated with initials and ornamental borders. However, the main feature of this manuscript, which has brought its international renown, are above all the marvellous miniatures in the manner of panel paintings. The artists who participated in the execution of this magnificent book are well known: the Limbourg brothers and Jean Colombe were great masters of their times. Executed between 1410 and 1485 this unique work with its innovatory spirit and bold artistic approach clearly outdid everything hitherto known.
The Très Riches Heures were made on behalf of the greatest bibliophile of his time, the Duke of Berry, around 1410. When he died in 1416, work on the book was interrupted. The then incomplete and unbound manuscript was handed down to the House of Savoy, to Duke Charles I who inherited the lavishly decorated work and ordered its completion. Its path is then lost in the mist of times. The manuscript later reappears in the middle of the 19th century in the library of an Italian baron who sold it to the duc d'Aumale. After the fall of Napoleon III, the manuscript came to France where it is kept today at the Château de Chantilly and now belongs to the Institut de France.
The Artists – Outstanding Masters of Their Times
The Duke of Berry entrusted the Limbourg brothers, who had worked in the bibliophile's services since 1404, with the execution of this manuscript. The art of the brothers Pol, Herman and Jean Limbourg was unique, its special character forbidding any imitation. Their work always represented and still remains to this day a landmark of Occidental painting. However, after their sudden death in 1416, the manuscript was left incomplete. The manuscript remained unfinished for quite some time until in 1485 Jean Colombe continued to work on it on the initiative of the Duke of Savoy. The artist clearly admired the Limbourg brother's style but refused to imitate it and developed his own style in accordance with the currents of his times. The calendar leaves in particular have not yet been fully attributed to a particular artist. Art historians speak of another "intermediary painter" who could have completed some of the calendar illustrations around 1440, however this theory has never been fully confirmed.
We have 4 facsimiles of the manuscript "Les Très Riches Heures of the Duke of Berry":
- Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry - Die Monatsblätter des Kalenders facsimile edition published by Faksimile Verlag, 1994
- Las Muy Ricas Horas del duque de Berry facsimile edition published by Patrimonio Ediciones, 2011
- Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry facsimile edition published by Faksimile Verlag, 1984
- Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry facsimile edition published by Franco Cosimo Panini Editore, 2011