The Hours of Jean de Montauban

The Hours of Jean de Montauban Hours of the Cross and the Holy Spirit: None. The Crucifixion, f. 72r

Hours of the Cross and the Holy Spirit: None. The Crucifixion, f. 72r

This folio is one of the rare ones with only one miniature occupying almost its whole surface. It is true that it depicts not just any subject, since it portrays what is normally called the Crucifixion, although it would be more accurate to term it Calvary, with its three crucified, namely Jesus in the centre and the two thieves on either side. The sun and moon appear discreetly in the two top corners against the background of a sky with stars towards the base and little clouds higher up. The thieves have not been crucified as Jesus was, but, one supposes, by their hands tied at the back of the horizontal axis of the cross, in a position that causes their arms to be raised vertically. Their bodies have the bloody marks of blows, particularly on their legs. A passage of the evangelist John tells that their legs were broken in order to shorten their agony (John 19:31-2), yet each of them still appears alive. Most probably the 'good thief' (Luke 23:40-42) is on the left, looking towards Jesus, whereas the one on the right is looking away.

Jesus is nailed to the cross by three, not four, nails (therefore termed a Triclavian Crucifixion) which is consistent with the act of crucifying on folio 70r. Since he was not pierced by the spear until after his death (John 19:33-4) we can conclude that Jesus, as rendered in this miniature, has already given up his soul. The blood runs copiously from his wounds, particularly from that in his side, which a bearded officer with an armed and helmeted troop behind him has just inflicted with his spear. On the same side of the cross, Mary lies on the ground, haloed and either in the act of fainting or already unconscious, supported by two haloed women with Saint John at their side looking up at Jesus. On the other side is the centurion on horseback, wearing a voluminous red turban and pointing up at Jesus. Above the centurion floats a scroll with the words, 'Truly this man was the Son of God' (cf. Luke 23:47). He is followed by five horsemen and the other part of the spear-bearing troop of soldiers.

Framing the image are two further examples of the Montauban coat of arms with its seven gold lozenges on a red field.

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