Recently a dear friend described me as her 'beauty therapist,' that is, someone who leads her to beautiful things that then become her therapy. Wow -- if I had set out to become something wonderful, I don't think I would have dared hope for that description!
Just now I found myself wishing for some 'beauty therapy' of my own, and my eye turned once more toward the Grandes Heures d'Anne de Bretagne. I ended up starting with this portrait of St. John the Evangelist and then I just kept paging forward - it was wonderful. Highly recommended for anyone in need of a beauty vitamin. (Which is, after all, most of us.)
Here's a great example of why I often read Patrick Kurp's blog Anecdotal Evidence. Kurp was reviewing a recent book on the Romantics and science, and suddenly he swerves like so --
I’m reminded of another English text written almost two centuries earlier by the poet and divine Thomas Traherne (1637-1674). Centuries of Meditation is studded with passages suggesting a merging of scientific and spiritual attentiveness to the physical world. For instance: “When Amasis the King of Egypt sent to the wise men of Greece, to know, Quid Pulcherrimum? upon due and mature consideration they answered, The World. The world certainly being so beautiful that nothing visible is capable of more. Were we to see it only once, the first appearance would amaze us. But being daily seen, we observe it not.”
Today is the feast of St. Ambrose of Milan, a late 4th-centure scholar and bishop. St. Ambrose is one of the most eminent of the Doctors of the Church. He appears in a number of excellent artworks, usually with a beard and a bishop's mitre. This portrait is by Bartolomeo Vivarini, done in 1477.
In honor of the season, here is a Nativity by Willem Vrelant or his workshop, done c. 1461. This depiction has the features common to most Nativities of this era: the Christ Child lies naked on the ground; St. Joseph holds a candle; and two tiny angels join Mary and Joseph in adoring the Child.
Note: this page is from the Arenberg Hours, much of which can be seen at the Getty Museum site.
I'm quite taken with a portrayal of Mary that is quite new to me: Our Lady of Mercy. She is also known as Our Lady of Compassion or, in Italian, the Madonna della Misericordia. The distinctive features of such a portrayal are a capacious cloak extending outward on both sides, and persons wishing her protection beneath it.
Here is an excellent portrayal of Our Lady of Mercy by Luca Signorelli, done in c. 1490. The other main figures are Saint Sebastian and Saint Bernardine of Siena. This work is housed in the Diocesan Museum of Pienza, Siena Province, Italy.
I'm always a little uneasy around the word 'gratitude." Gratitude is a feeling and it's axiomatic that we shouldn't be told how to feel. I'm generally more comfortable with the word "appreciation" which seems to me more an attitude, an orientation, almost an action, than gratitude.
Nonetheless, I will share for today two quotations that seem pretty worthwhile to me - even though they use the G-word.
Contemporary author Melody Beattie says: "Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."
Still more impressively, Lutheran minister and World War II martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer had this to say on the subject: "In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich."
". . . it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich." -- Powerful stuff!
Have a look at the Annunciation Triptych by Robert Campin. Painted c. 1430, it is owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. The detail is just extraordinary, especially in the center panel.
The Bibliotheque Nationale de France has also placed the complete Breviary of Martin d'Aragon online. I first came across many of these images long ago in the early years of the Internet age. I've been looking for the Breviary ever since, and am delighted to have rediscovered it at the Gallica site.
You could start with first image but you're probably better off heading straight for the first mosaic page. Either way, you're in for many a visual treat.
Every Book of Hours seems to have a monthly calendar, i.e., a set of twelve, or twenty-four, pages devoted to the feast days of each month. These pages often depict a labor that is typical of the month in question, and even the astrological signs for the month.
The Grandes Heures d'Anne de Bretagne has, as one would expect, a set of sumptuous illustrations for the months of the years. On the left of each set is a page containing text and marginal decoration; on the right is a list of the month's feast days with an illustration of an activity typical of that month.
Are you as charmed by the Grandes Heures d'Anne de Bretagne as I am? I hope so! The Grandes Heures have the following main sections: (1) calendar of monthly feasts; (2) portraits of evangelists; (3) life of Christ; and (4) portraits of saints.
The portraits of the evangelists were posted yesterday. I hope to post the other three main sections soon.
A smallish number of pages do not fit into any of the four main sections. They are posted below.
f. 1v, Opening page: Initials of Anne de Bretagne f. 3r, Anne de Bretagne and three saints
I've fallen in love with the Grandes Heures d'Anne de Bretagne, and hope to post links to various 'sets' of miniatures in it.
Here are its portraits of the four evangelists, along with the decorated pages facing each:
We have the privilege of seeing the entirety of the Grandes Heures d'Anne de Bretagne online. I absolutely love this Book of Hours, which was made c. 1505 by an unknown artist.
Anne de Bretagne was born in 1477 and died in 1513 at the age of 35. She was a queen of France and one of the best-known women of her age. She is buried with other French royalty in St. Denis Basilica.
Before looking at her Grandes Heures, we should note that another illuminated manuscript that bears her name, the Prayer Book of Anne de Bretagne, is also available online. It was illuminated by Jean Poyer, is owned by the Morgan Library, New York City, and is quite wonderful.
And now onward to the Grandes Heures. This manuscript is viewable at the Gallica site of the Bibliotheque National de France. Its pages fall into three main categories:
2: Some pages present the text of a prayer surrounded on all four sides with a decorated margin. One example is at f. 25r.
3: The great majority of pages offer just some prayers and an illustration on the outer margin of a flowering plant. Some excellent examples appear at ff. 29r, 60r and 221v.
To begin looking through the magic pages of these Grandes Heures, just pick one of the pages listed below. You'll be presented with a 'mosaic' page of thumbnails. Choose a thumbnail and you'll be amazed at the level of detail that will become possible.
I'm not sure yet but it looks like the Mandragore site might be pretty amazing. It is one of several places where the Bibliotheque Nationale de France (National Library of France) is storing its images online. I believe that it houses the images of a good many illuminated manuscripts.