The Hours of Charles of Angoulême

The Hours of Charles of Angoulême Calendar: December (f. 6v)

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Calendar: December (f. 6v)

The month of December, under the sign of Capricorn, usually depicts pigs being reared and/or slaughtered, but bread baking is chosen in this instance. This scene became quite popular in the late 15th century thanks to printed pastoral calendars. Bread was a mainstay of the medieval diet. It was eaten with many dishes and even cut into thick slices that were used as plates. For safety and taxation reasons, baking bread in the home was forbidden. Peasants could either buy bread from a baker or cook it themselves in an oven belonging to the lord of the manor – upon payment of a droit de fournage (baking fee).

The scene painted by Robinet Testard is apparently a professional bakery and not a lord’s oven. The man’s loose upper garment is unlike those worn by the peasants in previous scenes. Sitting on the large, rectangular table are balls of raw dough ready to be baked. The typical shape of the cob loaf keeps the bread fresh longer. The baker’s wife helps by putting one of the loaves on the long-handled peel he holds out to her, under the watchful eye of a woman leaning out of the window on the right. The oven is depicted on the left, as a pendant to the window, with red flames coming out of it.

Maxence Hermant
Curator 
Manuscript department 
Bibliothèque nationale de France

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