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Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Very Rich Hours of Duke of Berry or the Middle Ages on a Plate

When I studied French at the University, we had a very good literature professor. He managed to make medieval lit not only interesting, but exciting as well. I remember devouring the Arthurian legends by Cretien de Troyes and laughing to the simple-minded Maitre Pathelin. Turns out, the Dark Ages weren't so dark after all, in fact they were full of color and gold. Of course religion still played a pivotal role in everyday life, but people still knew how to go about their daily business of life, love and lust.

Books, whether lithurgical or the newly invented novels, offered just about the only escape from the daily chores. They were little treasures that those fortunate enough to possess, cherished. No wonder they were in the habit of carefully decorating the texts with beautiful images, called illuminations.

The mother of all illuminated books is definitely the national treasure of France - the Duke of Berry's book of hours.

The Very Rich Hours of Duke of Berry (Les Tres Riches Heures de Duc de Berry) is nowadays kept at the Conde Museum in Chantilly, France. It was made for the Duke of Berry, a patron of arts, and contains prayers and texts for every hour of the day (hence the name). As a book of hours of an important nobleman - brother to the King of France - the manuscript was richly adorned with images and illuminations. The most famous part of the manuscript is a beautifully painted calendar, depicting scenes from everyday life in the Middle Ages throughout the year. The months were painted by the two talented Limbourg brothers.


The images are famous for their incredible blue color, made from crushed lapis lazuli.

 The richly painted scenes have inspired many artists since their creation around 1412-1416. In the 1980's the famous French china makers from Limoges decided to recreate the whole calendar as handpainted commemmorative plates.

By chance I came across a plate with the month of November. The Limbourg brothers had died too soon, so that particular month had been finished by Jean Colombe.
With my new-found passion for destroying collectable vintage china, I couldn't wait to cut into this one.

Althought beautifully executed, a plate like this would never find a place on my wall or table. But it could hang beautifully around someone's neck instead.

After a long process of cutting, smoothing and drilling, the end result was three unusual and unique pendants, set in silver wire.

It took a bit of research, but I managed to procure copies of the whole calendar and to my delight I could place the pendants on top of the paper image like pieces in a puzzle.

Double Pendant $54
Autumn Porcelain Pendant $39

Foliage Porcelain Pendant $39

These pendants would make great gifts for those who either have a birthday or another important date in November.


  1. Very cool I love literature when mixed with art

  2. This is very inspiring work - good for you for looking a little deeper to find true inspiration!

  3. Thanks :) Sometimes I feel like a total geek, but I can't help it. ;)

  4. Thanks for sharing those gorgeous images! Great pendants!!

  5. Really beautiful! Thank you.