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

 March – The First Plantings at the Chateau de Lusignan

The month of March is the first of the great landscapes favored depicted by the Limbourgs in the Très Riches Heures. In careful, crisp detail, the brothers depict the year's first farm work, a simple scene of plowing set against the grandeur of the Chateau de Lusignan, the home of the fairy queen Mélusine.


The landscape is cut into several sub-scenes, each dedicated to a different sub-plot of land, separated by winding, rural paths, united at a small milestone that resembles one on a subsequent page representing the Meeting of the Magi (folio 51v).

 

In the background we see a shepherd and his dog, peasants at work in the vineyards and a small, country house.  But the scene is dominated by a white-bearded peasant wearing a surcoat over a blue tunic how slowly drives  pair of oxen as he guides his plow through the fields. The two oxen are differently colored; the fine reddish hide of the near one stands out in relief against the other, black, animal. The detail is exquisite: the newly tilled earth is covered with faded winter grass, churning it into furrows.


These rustic scenes are dominated by the powerful Château de Lusignan, above which hovers the fairy Mélusine, protectress of the château, who was said to transform into a dragon every Saturday.  Each of the the château's towers can clearly be seen: the Tour Mélusine, the Tour Poitevine below the fairy, the Tour de L'Horloge, and the Barbacane. Lusignan was one of the Duc de Berry's favorite residences; and the Limbourges depiction of the Tour Mélusine shows the addition of high windows and arched gables he made to the royal quarters.

 

A quiet scene that is at once both homey and majestic.


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