The Hours of Henry IV of France


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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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