The Hours of Charles of Angoulême

The Hours of Charles of Angoulême Calendar: May (f. 3r)

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Calendar: May (f. 3r)

Two jousting knights dressed as wild men

May was often the month chosen to depict a nobleman on horseback practising the art of falconry, against a wilder backdrop than the garden shown in the month of April: an image to which the strange scene shown here of two battling knights wearing nothing but leafy foliage as armour is obviously related. 

The greenery covering the men’s bodies and forming the horses’ headstalls barely hides the hairy skin of these noble jousters – who are in fact the wild men that fifteenth-century Nordic and Italian artists loved to portray. From 1400 onwards, particularly in German art, the wild man – a symbol of the brutality, sexual violence and animal nature within every man, or on the contrary, a positive symbol, the protector of the home when painted on the walls at the entrance to dwellings in the Alps – became a figurative element increasingly associated with chivalry and its ideals […] This jousting scene is perhaps a parody of the falconry that one would usually expect to find here.

Séverine Lepape
Curator
Musée du Louvre

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