The Hours of Henry IV of France


St Joseph led by angels to Our Lady with the child Jesus on her lap, f. 15r

In the Hours of Henry IV, the painting which accompanies the prayer O intemerata (“Oh thou spotless one”) – in reference to the close links between Christ and St John the Evangelist, and between the latter and Our Lady, who intercedes before God on behalf of the sinner – consists of a double-folio scene which culminates with the Virgin in majesty and the Child flanked by two angels adoring them. Our Lady, sitting on a magnificent folding chair whose ancient appearance heightens the importance and solemnity of the scene, is depicted as a calm young woman with no veil garbed in a gown trimmed with gold embroidery, resting her feet on a cushion and holding a golden apple which the naked boy Jesus tries to grasp. She looks like the new Eve whose literary origins are to be found in the early Christian exegeses: the mother of humanity brought about the fall, but the mother of Christ brought salvation. The scene is set indoors but judging by its context, it must be seen as a holy place, such as heaven or the Church, represented by Our Lady.

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