LIMBOURG brothers
(b. 1370-80, Nijmegen, d. 1416, Nijmegen)

Les très riches heures du Duc de Berry: January (detail)

Illumination on vellum
Musée Condé, Chantilly

The art-loving Duke occupies the central place; his clear-cut profile is outlined against a large screen set before the fireplace. There is evidently a roaring fire in the fireplace for as many as three persons stretch their hands towards it. The table is splendidly supplied, showing the lavish abundance at a mediaeval feast. In the large dish on the right hand is a swan, one of the duke's emblems. Small, round, flat loaves of bread are scattered around; they served as plates for the meat courses. One of the "little dogs" of the Duke, wandering at will on the fine, patterned tablecloth, can be seen smelling one of them. Soup was, of course, eaten from a plate and indeed, there is a plate before the host and one of his guests, a Church dignitary. There are also two dishes with poultry; the carver is just turning to one of them. The truly accomplished and graceful carver, sometimes working rhythmically to music, was one of the most valued servants among the host's attendants. The figures display the fully developed Burgundian fashion of dressing, with all its oddities and exaggerations. Interesting examples of the mode can even be observed in the servants' apparel.