Great Hours of Anne of Brittany

Great Hours of Anne of Brittany f. 85r, Beginning of complines in the little office of the Virgin


f. 85r, Beginning of complines in the little office of the Virgin

The border encircling the beginning of complines features three branches of cherry that surround the text of the invitatory and the start of Psalm 128, with insects (butterflies, a bee, a fly, etc) perched on them and a caterpillar curled around one of the stalks. The branches form an L-shape with a curved bottom line along the right and lower sides of the frame and stand out against the golden ground in a trompe-l’œil effect. A very similar but more discreet border is to be found in a book of hours by Jean Bourdichon and his workshop. According to tradition, the cherry was introduced into Europe by the Roman general Licinius Lucullus (c. 110-56 BC) after his defeat of Mithridate VI Eupator (c. 132-63 BC). It must be said that the fruit depicted at the beginning of some parts of the manuscript usually appears on the folios about the suffrages of the saints, although not in the case of this painting. In Christianity, the colour red refers to the blood Christ spilt on the cross, hence the portrayal of cherries in images of the Last Supper or the feast of Emmaus. They also appear with an identical meaning in paintings of the Virgin and Child.

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