The Hours of Charles of Angoulême

The Hours of Charles of Angoulême Annunciation to the Shepherds (f. 20v)

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Annunciation to the Shepherds (f. 20v)

Terce in the Hours of the Virgin, the Cross and the Holy Ghost is preceded by a scene of a country dance: a rather surprising portrayal of country life where one would expect to find a Holy Scriptures scene. This dance, totally unrelated to this section of the book of hours, seems at first glance to be a continuation of the calendar featuring other everyday scenes. In a landscape with no real perspective typical of Robinet Testard’s art, and outside a town in the background, a dance takes place around a tree forming the centre of the composition. The figures have clean-cut outlines and are arranged as if in a stage setting. Several sheep, rams and dogs heighten the picturesque nature of the scene. The reason for this odd image might have been a desire to insert an engraving that the patron would particularly like, as occurs elsewhere in the manuscript. This is, however, not the case because this image is an illumination painted directly on the parchment folio. Moreover, no engraved source has been identified. The country dance in the Hours of Charles of Angoulême is, in fact, a mixture of religious and picturesque elements. The kneeling angel painted in the sky is surrounded by a long phylactery bearing the words Gloria in excelsis Deo…”. One of the three shepherds not dancing – two in the background and one on the edge of the scene – points at the heavenly angel. The group is obviously reminiscent of the Annunciation to the shepherds despite usually being set at night.

Maxcence Hermant
Curator
Bibliothèque nationale de France
 

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