The Hours of Henry IV of France


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St Luke, f. 9r

Above the pericope of the Gospel according to St Luke – a text describing the Annunciation (1: 26-38) which was read during the divine office of the feast of the Incarnation on March 25th – is a portrait of the bearded evangelist with a book rest (an unusual piece of furniture in early sixteenth-century France). He is dressed in white, sitting on an ornate, wooden chair decorated with precious stones topped by a scallop-shaped niche symbolising power. The saint writes with a plume directly on a bound codex lying open. Rather than portraying reality, the intention is to show the saint as an author, not a scribe, and the symbolic meaning of the book he is writing as the word of God. Beside the saint stands a winged ox, his theriomorphic animal. A balcony in the background overlooks a wide landscape. The iconography of this painting is a Christian version of the classic author’s portrait.

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