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

The year ends with a wild boar hunt, again depicted vividly by the magnificent Limbourgs brothers.  


As Jean, Duc de Berry was born on December eve (30 November 1340), it is only fitting that this final month of the calendar turns to the Château de Vincennes, where the great lord was born. However, it is not the Château as it was in 1340, but rather as it stood at the cusp of the 15th century.  Rising above the treetops is an enormous rectangular donjon and walled enclosure flanked by nine towers begun in 1364 by Charles V. Once the enlargements to the magnificent fortress were complete, it subsequently became the home for a substantial portion of Charles’ art treasures, precious manuscripts, and material wealth. Several towers of the ensemble were partially razed during the course of the centuries.


Part of the Château’s popularity amongst the great lords of France has always been the forests of Vincennes, which had been a prized, royal hunting demesne since the 11th century. Louis VII built a hunting lodge there; Philippe Augustus built the first Château, a small hunting lodge in the 12th century, which was substantially enlarged by Saint Louis, who often held an open air court in the forest.

It is beneath the bowers of this famed wood that we see the hunt come to its conclusion. A bevy of bloodhounds and boarhounds have driven their quarry to exhaustion, and as a huntsman spears it, the hounds are tearing it apart. At the right a hunter blows the mort, or death call, on his small horn.

This final scene, showing the boar’s death, recalls the death of the year and the death of winter, yet is ironically perhaps the liveliest in a calendar full of lively images.

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