Damselflies and snails, damsels and devils

Detail from the miniature of the Adoration of the Magi from the Huth Hours, Flemish, c1485. Add. MS 38126 f.83v
Detail from the miniature of the Adoration of the Magi from the Huth Hours, Flemish, c1485.
Add. MS 38126 f.83v
In this third and final visit to the Huth Hours illuminated manuscript (Part I and Part II here) we find that it was not only flowers and birds that have been carefully illustrated. The Master artist, Simon Marmion, along with the other Flemish artisans who painted this fascinating Books of Hours, depicted the delicate damselfly

along with the odd snail or two

and a nuisance fly.

And, finally I couldn’t leave the Huth Hours without showing at least one saint and I’ve chosen St Anthony. This representation of the Temptation of St Anthony shows a very green, Lowlands countryside and the devil dressed as a lady of the late-fifteenth century (see the clawed foot poking out from under the cloth of gold gown). Perhaps an Egyptian desert landscape and historically attired devil temptress would have been too distracting for the devotions of the Northern European reader of this Book of Hours.

Author: agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.

5 thoughts on “Damselflies and snails, damsels and devils”

  1. I love snails and I love their picture here, both photo and illustration. There is something magical about this book, I think. Maybe the wrong thing to say about a religious work, but there is such a sense of another world about it…despite it being grounded in ours. Maybe that was the point? And I’m finally getting it?

    Thanks for posting!

    1. I think the otherworldliness is something to do with the medieval sensibility that comes across the centuries. Perhaps these illustrations remind us that there is a core of shared human experience differing only by a contemporary gloss. Isn’t it brilliant that our major libraries have invested in uploading these treasures for us all to encounter?

      1. Yes. Because there is not enough time or money to be able to visit or even learn that such things exist.

        I agree with the medieval outlook coming across. Their view of life was profoundly different from our own and you feel it in these kinds of works.

  2. An amazing manuscript – thanks for introducing it to me. Love the way you’ve juxtaposed real life against the illustrations. I know you specified that this was an illuminated manuscript – what is it that gives it the 3D effect?

    1. I think perhaps the way the archivist/photographer has photographed these for the interactive digital display or maybe it’s intrinsic to the manuscript – can’t say because although I’ve been privileged to be shown rare early manuscripts in the bowels of the Brit Library this is not one of them. Was once lucky enough to see some 9th century Carolingian codexes ‘in the flesh’, not in glass cases – memorable experience!

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