The beautiful illuminated Flemish manuscript, the Huth Hours (c.1485), not only has delightful representations of flowers decorating its margins, but every now and then a bird or animal is depicted within the ornamentation.
Starling detail from the Huth Hours. Flemish 1485-1490. Add. MS38126 f244r
Starling having a splashing time.
Thought to have been produced in either Ghent or Bruges over five hundred and thirty years ago, the Huth Hours contains many miniatures as well as pages of text with decorated borders. It is considered to be the work of Simon Marmion and his workshop in collaboration with other unnamed Master artisans.
Young Great Tit
Great Tit detail from the Huth Hours. Flemish 1485-1490. Add. MS38126 f.179r
Five hundred and thirty years ago sounds a long time to us, but it’s less than a blink of an eye for Mother Nature. Spying birds in the finely decorated margins such as starlings and great tits, and then spying the same species in my back garden evoked a wistful sigh from me as I contemplated the cycling of the years and the passing of the centuries.
Possibly a Blue Tit detail from the Huth Hours. Flemish 1485-1490. Add. MS38126 f.156r
Blue Tit at the bird bath.
When I was a teenager my family visited El Escorial, Spain. It was a memorable experience as apart from queuing down a marble staircase to visit the Pantheon of the Kings, it was the first time I saw a medieval illuminated manuscript. In fact, the library of El Escorial now, like many of the world’s great libraries, shares its collection online and thanks to digitisation we can all scrutinise these exquisitely decorated manuscripts.
Detail from the Huth Hours. Flemish 1485-1490. Add. MS38126 f223r
I’ve recently been looking for inspiration from the collection of illuminated manuscripts held by the British Library. And, a Flemish Book of Hours, the Huth Hours (Add. MS 38126), created some time between 1485 and 1490 contains a selection of beautiful wild flower and bird illustrations. These strawberry flowers and bluebells caught my attention.
Bluebells detail from the Huth Hours. Flemish 1485-1490. Add. MS38126 f82v
Repeating a simple bluebell shape, but
not entirely sure about the colours so far – will probably add a little brown.
Stained glass is more than just beautiful jewel-like windows flooding interiors with shimmering dappled patches of colour. Many stained glass windows particularly those found in churches are a combination of pieces of coloured glass cut and leaded together to form an image, and parts of the window lights where sections of the glass have been painted. In addition to painting people and animals often vegetal motifs and ornate architectural designs were painted into the backgrounds and borders of the main images.
Part of the ‘Susannah and the Elders’ window, St Edmundsbury Cathedral, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
Part of the ‘Susannah and the Elders’ window showing painted architectural detail.
I noticed an interesting bow motif used by the makers of ‘The Susannah and the Elders’ window in St Edmundsbury Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds. The artisans who painted this window lived during the first half of the sixteenth century and were either Flemish or French.
Portrait of a Man by the Flemish artist Quintin Massys. 1520
In one of the lights you can see the style of dress worn by the Elders and it is typical of the first half of the sixteenth century as compared with oil paintings such as the 1520 painting ‘Portrait of a Man’ by the Flemish artist Quintin Massys. These images immediately made me think of Thomas Cromwell in his legal guise flexing his power and working his charm round Henry VIII’s court. Although, I can’t imagine he wore any flamboyant bows himself!
Bow detail part of the ‘Susannah and the Elders’ window, St Edmundsbury Cathedral
Currently, I’m working the ‘Tudor bow’ motif with a blue palette.