The Hours of Charles of Angoulême

The Hours of Charles of Angoulême Calendar: September (f. 5r)


Calendar: September (f. 5r)

An ill-matched couple 

The bas-de-page scene depicts a grey-haired man making advances to a young woman wearing a bridal headpiece and holding a vine sprig. The old man holds a glass of wine and clutches a basket full of apples to his chest whilst caressing the young woman’s hand. Flies buzz around him in a possible analogy of his untiring, obsessive desire. The only onlooker in this outdoor scene is the dog watching the couple through an open window.

Robinet Testard was once again inspired by a print of an ill-matched couple by the Master of the Amsterdam Cabinet. Since ancient times, an older man or woman with a younger partner had always been a popular subject in literature, but less so in art until fifteenth-century, Nordic engravings made it extraordinarily popular. To depict this subject from both viewpoints, said engraver made another print as a pendant showing an old woman seducing a young man. The print Testard used for inspiration shows the young woman responding more discreetly as if surrendering herself reluctantly, despite stroking the bag of gold with her left hand. Robinet Testard reduced the financial undertones somewhat, but nonetheless he retained and actually emphasised the idea of ??an unnatural relationship by showing the man surrounded by flies not depicted in the original print. He shifted the theme into a different class, enabling him to adapt the scene to the iconography expected for September. Wine, vine shoots and apples represent that month’s main farming products harvested by peasants. So, as for the month of August, this picture may be regarded as depicting the celebrations – with wine flowing a little too freely – at the end of the month’s work, whilst clearly expressing disdain and moral condemnation for this peasant couple and their financially motivated relationship, in which the currency is apples instead of gold.

Séverine Lepape
Curator - Musée du Louvre

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