Rise of Naturalism in Manuscript
The use of naturalism during the Northern Renaissance began appearing in illuminated manuscripts in the 14th century before it was seen in any major paintings of that time. These elaborate manuscripts became an inspiration for future great artists to come. There are several reasons why naturalism could have emerged in manuscripts first.
Books were an expensive production at the time, thus considered a work of high craft. Owning illuminated manuscripts was seen as a sign of high status, wealth and power. They became common diplomatic gifts. An important contributor to this was Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, a lover of arts and an avid book collector. He hired talented artists to create personalized and lavishly decorated books for his collections. This gave talented artists the resources and funds to create lavish colored illustrations that they might not have been able to otherwise. An example of this is found in the work of the Limbourg Brothers, who worked for Philip and later went to work for his brother, Duke of Berry. One of their most famous works, “Very Rich Hours,” created for the Duke of Berry, is filled with deep blue coloring, an expensive color at the time due to the precious stone used to create it. The brothers filled entire pages with illustrations. Living in the Duke’s court enabled the brothers to concentrate and put their full efforts into creating beautifully detailed manuscripts. Philip the Good began a high demand for illustrated books, especially books of hours that employed many artists with many different styles.
A Book of Hours contained prayers for the year along with a calendar. Since books were such an expensive investment, books were personalized for the patron. In the Limbourg Brothers’ “Very Rich Hours,” the calendar is used not only to illustrate the season but to show off the Duke’s kingdom and riches. The Limbourg Brothers captured the life of the court and peasants, and the beauty of...
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