Bible moralisée of the Limbourg brothers

Ms. Fr. 166 - Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris, France)

Alternate Titles:

Biblia Moralizada De Los Hermanos Limbourg, Bible moralisée der Brüder Limburg

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Biblia Moralizada De Los Hermanos Limbourg
Bible moralisée der Brüder Limburg

Type
Extent / Format

338 pages / 41.5 x 29.0 cm

Origin
Date
1402-1404; 1450-1465; 1485-1493
Style
Genre
Language
Patron

Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy

Artist / School

Limburg brothers
Colin D'Amiens (Master of the Geneva Boccaccio)
George Trubert and others

Illustrations

513 miniatures illuminated with gold and silver by the Limbourg brothers, and 255 illustrations by Jean Fouquet and other outstanding artists

Former owners

René of Anjou (1409 - 1480)
Aymar de Poitiers (seneschal of Provence), King Charles VIII (reigned 1483 - 1498)

Short description

The famous Limbourg Brothers, who were already celebrated as true masters of their craft in their own lifetimes, completed this Bible moralisée as a gigantic book project for Philip the Bold, the Duke of Burgundy. The Limbourg Brothers began the project at the dawn of the 15th century and produced true masterpieces of illumination in the process. After the sudden death of the Duke, the Bible moralisèe passed through the hands of various important owners and other artists, but remained unfinished in spite of everything. Nonetheless, with 338 richly-illustrated pages, the sheer extent of the manuscript is impressive. The Bible moralisée of the Limbourg Brothers represents an outstanding example of this rare type of book.

Facsimile editions available

Description

Bible moralisée of the Limbourg Brothers

The famous Limbourg Brothers, who were already celebrated as true masters of their craft in their own lifetimes, completed this Bible moralisée as a gigantic book project for Philip the Bold, the Duke of Burgundy. The Limbourg Brothers began the project at the dawn of the 15th century and produced true masterpieces of illumination in the process. After the sudden death of the Duke, the Bible moralisèe passed through the hands of various important owners and other artists, but remained unfinished in spite of everything. Nonetheless, with 338 richly-illustrated pages, the sheer extent of the manuscript is impressive. The Bible moralisée of the Limbourg Brothers represents an outstanding example of this rare type of book.

The Most Prominent Owners and the Greatest Artists

The great name of the Limbourg brothers is inexorably connected to their most famous patron, Duke Jean de Berry, for whom they completed such precious and famous books of hours as the Très Riches Heures or the Belles Heures. At the beginning of their careers, Jean, Paul, and Hermann Limbourg were actually court painters for the brother of the Duc de Berry, Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. The Limbourg Brothers undertook one of the most ambitious projects in the history of book art for him. Philip’s commission stipulated a codex with over 5,000 illustrations. This gigantic task could not be completed by the brothers because the Burgundian Duke died unexpectedly in 1404. Up to that point, the Limbourg Brothers had already completed a considerable amount of the work and had already partially realized another part. The manuscript changed owners multiple times during the subsequent period and thus was continuously embellished by new artists, each in their own way. The book project way first continued under Duke René of Anjou ca. the mid-15th century. Colin d’Amien, also known as the Master of the Geneva Boccaccio, was only one of several exceptionally-talented painters involved. The manuscript changed owners at the end of the 15th century and now belonged to Aymar de Poitiers, where it was supposed to be finished by the work of more miniaturists, George Trubert inter alia, but which was never achieved.

The Genre of the Bible moralisée

The turbulent history of the manuscript’s genesis and ownership history is also reflected in its splendid contents. 513 miniatures by the Limbourg Brothers and 255 additional illustrations by many other artists are collected on 338 pages. As a Bible moralisée, the manuscript contains countless pairs of images with an accompanying, explanatory text. Under the genre of the Bible moralisée, originating in France ca. 1220, annotated biblical texts were assembled, most of which were very comprehensively illustrated. The biblical tales were illustrated by moralizing interpretive pairs of images – mostly in the form of medallions. Such Bible moralisées contained up to 2,700 pairs of images. Originally, as in the Bible moralisée of the Limbourg Brothers, 8 pictures are found on each page, respectively.

Wonderful Compositions from Gifted Hands

Duke Philip the Bold’s Bible moralisée represents an early masterpiece of the Limbourg Brothers. The small format pictures demonstrate all of their ability with their impressive, airy manner. Surrounded by filigree and artfully designed frames, the pictures contain figurative representations, which are reminiscent of large-format panel paintings in their wonderful composition and execution. Although in the smallest of formats, neither the grandiose backgrounds are neglected, nor are the figures characterized any less individualistically. Filigreed with gold and bright colors, the initials, which introduce each textual passage, contribute to this astonishing visual experience. Each batch of pages appears perfectly worked through, the design completed with the delicate application of color and gold.
Alongside the Très Riches Heures de Duc de Berry, this Bible moralisée represents the most significant work by the Limbourg Brothers and offers therewith an inside view into the genesis of a manuscript over a century of various owners and artists. As a synthesis of the arts, its historical and art-historical worth cannot be overestimated.

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