The Limbourg Brothers' Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, by Justin

Added 4 July 2000

The following text was taken from a report on manuscript illumination sent to me by a British student. As a disclaimer, I have not made any attempt to verify the information contained in the report. For the full report on Medieval and Renaissance Communication, go HERE.

The Limbourg Brothers

The Limbourg brothers, Paul (Pol), Jean (Jan), and Herman (Hermann), were a family of Franco-Flemish manuscript illuminators. All three died in 1416, presumably of the plague. They succeeded Jaquemart de Hesdin in 1411 as court painters to Jean, Duc de Berry.

Paul Limbourg is thought to be the eldest and therefore the head of the workshop, but the first mention of any of the brothers was in the late 1390s when Jean and Hermann were apprenticed to a goldsmith in Paris.

In 1402 Paul & Jean were contracted to illuminate a Bible for Philip the Bold, the Duke of Burgundy. In 1404 Philip died and soon afterwards the brothers transferred to the Duke's brother, Jean, Duc de Berry. In the service of the Duc de Berry they enjoyed a privileged lifestyle, moving with the court as it progressed around the Duke's many castles.

Their Work

Their two important works for the Duc are the "Très Belles Heures" (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) finished in 1808 or 1809, and the "Très Riches Heures" (Musée Condé, Chantilly), unfinished at the time of their deaths but finished 70 years later by the French illuminator Jean Colombe (1440-1493).

Their book 'Tres Riches Heures', is filled with exquisite illustrations of the daily life of the aristocracy and peasantry (see handout). It includes 12 beautiful full-page illuminations illustrating the months of the year, and is full of closely observed naturalistic detail, it is generally considered to be one of the most important works of the International Gothic style. To the International Gothic tradition the Limbourg brothers brought a vitalising Italian influence, apparent chiefly in their more sophisticated rendering of space. The Tres Riches Heures was painted over a period of 75 years, from 1410 to 1485.

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