The Hours of Henry VIII

The Hours of Henry VIII Feast of Dives, f. 134v

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Feast of Dives, f. 134v

Although the Office of the Dead normally receives but one illustration, the service in the Hours of Henry VIII has two. When the Office contains a second image, it traditionally marks, as here, the beginning of Matins, a textual division reflecting the practice of recitation mentioned above. The second illustration for the Office is smaller since it marks a break within the text. The page is laid out like those in the Calendar and Suffrages sections, where half-page miniatures in full color are juxtaposed with border scenes in monochrome.

The Feast of Dives derives from Luke’s parable of the rich man (16:19–31). According to the story, an unnamed rich man (the Latin word for a rich man, dives, in the Middle Ages became the man’s name) ate sumptuous meals every day. A poor man named Lazarus (not to be confused with the Lazarus resurrected by Christ) asked only for the crumbs that fell from his table. Nothing was given to him, and, adding insult, the rich man’s dogs would lick his sores. When the beggar died, he was carried by angels to the bosom of Abraham. Dives, however, ended up in hell from where, in considerable torment, he could see Lazarus cradled by the patriarch. He asked Abraham if Lazarus might dip the tip of his finger in water to cool his own burning tongue. Abraham replied that the riches Dives had received on earth had now to be paid for in eternity, while Lazarus, like all the poor, enjoys his reward in heaven.

In the miniature, the elegantly dressed Dives and his wife are about to start eating. She cautiously observes her husband as he points and casts a withering look toward Lazarus. Unobserved by a servant who seems to be asleep on his feet, the beggar approaches the table. He carries a small canteen and a clapper to warn passersby that he is a leper. His entry into the hall has attracted the attention of three dogs, which head toward the poor man. In the bottom margin, painted mostly in shades of orange and copper, Dives is tormented by flames and demons; he points to his mouth, asking for the single drop of water. In the celestial cool blue of heaven, the innocent soul of Lazarus, depicted as a nude child, calmly prays within Abraham’s protective arms. As discussed in chapter I, this border is based on the one Poyer painted in the slightly earlier Tilliot Hours (see chapter I).

Roger S. Wieck.
Curator, Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts
The Morgan Library & Museum


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