How to Save $299,935

The Limbourg Brothers - Herman, Paul & Jean

The Metropolitan Museum of Art had to pay $300,000 for the manuscript of the Duke of Berry’s Belles Heures back in 1954. They should have waited. We were able to snag this beautiful oversized reproduction of that 15th century prayer book at the Getty Museum gift shop for the bargain price of $65. Eat your heart out, Met.

We love the exhibit at the Getty Museum of unbound pages from this tour de force of medievel book production so much that we finally began to act on our recent resolution to fill up our little abode with those sort of expensive art books you see on the shelves in the sitcom Frasier. It’s a luxury, sure, but it’s also, as Faith Popcorn termed it, an affordable luxury — if only barely affordable.

What a looker! Want to see that cover more closely? Your wish, etc:

The Annunciation

And not just good looking: it’s brainy, too! The text by scholar Timothy B. Husband (curator of The Cloisters) is nothing less than his outpouring of a lifetime’s study of the Belles Heures. Thank heavens for scholars: they do the heavy lifting, we common readers get the fruit. Any question you have about this Duke Berry’s “Book of Hours” — its production, its meaning, its place in history both cultural and political — is either answered here or you asked a silly question.

The text is chock full of that kind of art-book talk that goes beyond mere language into the realm of pure mental sensation. Here’s a sample:

“…the Valois courts were at the epicenter of creative activity, and the Belles Heures ranks as a pivotal achievement at this culminating moment of artistic efflorescence.”

Wow! My IQ just went up half a notch. Let’s do that again!!

“The full-page format provided an expanded framework to develop a figural style of enhanced animus and articulation, to refine palette, to experiment with light and surface value, and to devise compositional formulas that focused the dramatic charge of the image.”

Okay. That’s enough for now. If we get any smarter we’ll become dangerous.

We hope to visit the show one or two more times with our Bausch & Lomb lens (there’s keen competition for the lenses provided by the Getters). Soon these beautiful pages will be re-gathered, sewn, covered and shipped back amid tears to the unappreciative savages in Manhattan.

Nice to see calligraphy somewhere besides a public wall.Here’s one more photo for those among you who appreciate fine calligraphy. Me, I don’t actually appreciate calligraphy fine or otherwise, but the elegance of the capital B on the page of inscription by Duke Berry’s secretary was cool enough to penetrate even my dullness.

The Art of Illumination, The Limbourg Brothers and the Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry, Timothy B. Husband, Yale University Press, 2008, 376 lavishly illustrated pages


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