March 10, 2004

The Da Costa Hours

I browsed my way to the Pierpoint Morgan library’s website earlier today, and found my eye drawn to the pages on display there from an illuminated manuscript known as the Da Costa Hours, after the book’s second owner, one Álvaro Da Costa, armourer to King Manuel the Fortunate of Portugal. Details from each of the twelve calendar images in this manuscript follow below.

'January: Dinner Scene' - detail from calendar illumination by Simon Bening from the 'Da Costa Hours', ca. 1515. 'February: Pruning Vines, Breaking Ground' - detail from calendar illumination by Simon Bening from the 'Da Costa Hours', ca. 1515.
'March: Two Workmen in a Garden' - detail from calendar illumination by Simon Bening from the 'Da Costa Hours', ca. 1515. 'April: Farmyard scene' - detail from calendar illumination by Simon Bening from the 'Da Costa Hours', ca. 1515.

This Book of Hours, which was produced in Bruges, ca 1515, was one of several illuminated by the Flemish painter Simon Bening (1483/4-1561).

Bening was the last great Flemish illuminator, and he capitalized on the current taste for large Calendar miniatures, taking them to their limit by making them full-page… Bening was known for his naturalistic depictions of figures and landscapes. He was a great observer of detail, including fabrics, the objects and events of daily life, and even weather conditions… [His] fame was widespread in his lifetime, and his creations were much sought after, not only in Belgium, but also in Italy, Germany, and Portugal - source here.
May: Boating Party' - detail from calendar illumination by Simon Bening from the 'Da Costa Hours', ca. 1515. 'June: Shearing Sheep' - detail from calendar illumination by Simon Bening from the 'Da Costa Hours', ca. 1515.
'July: Making Hay' - detail from calendar illumination by Simon Bening from the 'Da Costa Hours', ca. 1515. 'August: Moving Wheat, Binding Sheaves' - detail from calendar illumination by Simon Bening from the 'Da Costa Hours', ca. 1515.
Simon Bening revolutionized the pictorial language used in calendar miniatures. He attached as much importance to calendar decoration as to the detailed programmes of devotional miniatures which usually followed them. Bening […] was the only artist in his century who painted full-page calendar miniatures, and he was the first to treat them as independent depictions which, to his mind, should convey a life-like picture of the environment.
Bening also was the only artist before Pieter Brueghel the Elder to explore landscapes in a systematic way. He painted different landscape types in a stunning topographic diversity and also described the most different weather conditions. His landscapes are lyrical, observed with sensitivity, composed in detail and full of atmosphere. They are Bening’s important contribution to the increasing prestige attributed to Flemish landscape painting - source here.
'September: Plowing and Sowing Seed' - detail from calendar illumination by Simon Bening from the 'Da Costa Hours', ca. 1515. 'October: Sale of a Bull' - detail from calendar illumination by Simon Bening from the 'Da Costa Hours', ca. 1515.
'November: Carding Wool' - detail from calendar illumination by Simon Bening from the 'Da Costa Hours', ca. 1515. 'December: Slaughtering a Pig' - detail from calendar illumination by Simon Bening from the 'Da Costa Hours', ca. 1515.

Click on the details above to see the images enlarged and in full.

Posted by misteraitch at March 10, 2004 03:22 PM | TrackBack
Comments

This is very interesting; opposite to most works of that time, there is almost no sign of the deep beliefs in the demonic astrology, which yet was so on a rise these days. I have noticed, however, that the September folio shows Scorpio [rather than cancer], which should be on November, and one of the corresponding professions, that of agricultural labour. Interesting, isn't it.

Posted by: mademoiselle a. on March 15, 2004 09:20 AM

This is my first venture into bloggs, all started when looking for something about frogs! It took me to a wonderful science oriented site called Apothecary's drawer website, and linked through to your wonderful site. I feel overwhelmed by the interlect of you all! The Bening paintings are lovely aren't they. I have saved one or two for my pc jigsaw programme (not a very intellectual move I know, but it's good to have interesting pictures to do). Maybe now I've put my toe in the weblog water I may continue. I never did find what I was looking for - someone interested in the mating and living habits of the british frog!!

Posted by: Jo on March 17, 2004 12:43 PM

Simon Benning is one of my favorite manuscript painters (along with the Master of Mary of Burgundy). I was hoping to find a facsimilie of his The da Costa Hours, and your blog was first in the search list. Thanks for your info on S.B., and the illustrations.

Posted by: durfulla on October 13, 2004 02:08 AM

This looks like the work of Pieter Brueghel also a flemish painter from around that time.

Posted by: darryl on October 17, 2004 06:31 PM
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