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Jean, Duc de Berry's Book of Hours- April

In April we see the earth renewed, as the Limbourges bring their entire palette to bear to show the restored grasses, blooming trees and flowing river; although their greatest colors will be reserved for the noble company we join in medias res.

The scene is at Dourdan, improved and fortified by the Duke after he took control of it in 1400. In the scene we see little more than the towers and dungeon of the chateau; ironically, the same pieces of masonry that stand as quiet ruins to this day. Beyond the chateau flows the Orge River, and on its far bank is the village of Dourdan itself. But it is the nobles in the foreground who dominate the scene. Dressed in both a simple, fitted gown and a houppelande, two maidens pick violets, shrouded in the trains and sleeves of their dresses. As the girls amuse themselves, an equally happy, but more serious event transpires, as a young man gifts a woman with a betrothal ring as an older couple - presumably her parents - look on. As the fiance searches the face of his betrothed she extends her finger and lowers her eyes. Her mother is visibly moved, and in recognition of the timelessness of "Daddy's little girl" the father turns to look affectionately at his daughter.

All four of the nobles are dressed in magnificent houppelandes, chaperones other fabulous fifteenth century hats. The fiancee's pale blue stands out against the mother's black, while the future groom wears princely apparel strewn with golden crowns.

Scholars believe that this month represents a real event. In April, 1410, at the time the illustrations for the Très Riches Heures were begun, the Duc de Berry's eleven-year-old granddaughter, Bonne, daughter of Bonne de Berry and the Comte Bernard d'Armagnac, became engaged to Charles d'Orleans, who was then sixteen. An agreement was reached at Gien and the wedding was celebrated four months later at Riom. As the Duke had just put Dourdan at the disposal of his future grandson, it is believed that this is where the future couple may have met to exchange pledges.




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