The Hours of Henry VIII

The Hours of Henry VIII March. Pruning, f. 2r


March. Pruning, f. 2r

The early spring month of March heralds genuine work, outdoors. The typical labor for the month, as pictured here, is the pruning of the vineyard. Two workers trim the leafless vines while a third ties them to the grape arbor. A fourth laborer, his back to the viewer, mends a wood fence. In the foreground is a wood cask of wine, refreshment that is no doubt the product of last year’s harvest. The workers are dressed practically: simple doublets loosely tied down the front. The hose of the two men at center stop at the knee; their shins are covered by uncolored leggings. The two men at the far left and right wear no hose at all.

Poyer’s superior command of perspective is evident even in this landscape scene. The horizontal beams of the arbor form orthogonals that point to a vanishing point on the horizon. The fence behind the three workers is perfectly parallel to the picture plane. Poyer uses additional visual tricks that contribute to the miniature’s sense of deep perspective. The blue of the sky turns nearly milky as it reaches the horizon. The sloping hills turn from pale green to light blue as they recede further and further away from the viewer; their details blur and become indistinct.

The figures in the margins around the calendar begin at the left with St. Albinus, a bishop (March 1), the Forty Holy Martyrs, suggested by the multiple haloes visible behind the two male figures (March 9), the Mass of St. Gregory (for the Feast of St. Gregory, March 12, in red), and St. Longinus (March 15). On the right are Sts. Benedict (March 21) and Helena, with imperial crown and scepter (her feast on May 22 has been mistakenly entered here on March 31) and the Annunciation (March 25, in blue).

The zodiacal sign is Aries, the Ram.

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

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