Snowy January

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January 24, 2013 by Gail Armstrong

As I write, it’s cold and blustery , snowflakes swirling in the pale winter sunlight. So my thoughts are wintry, and so is the theme of the day: January.

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[http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/ILLUMIN.ASP?Size=mid&IllID=2158]

You can feel the chill in the air just looking at this image from a Bruges Book of Hours (dating from around 1510 and thought to be by the young Simon Bening – a very well known 16th century miniature painter, and considered the last of the “Ghent-Bruges” school). The dog looks happy, but the woman walking him is clearly feeling the cold, blowing on her hands to warm them. And feel for the peasants to the left, sheltering from the snow in their windowless home. If you click through to the original on the British Library website and enlarge it, you can see the woman is spinning with bare hands – perhaps when the yarn is ready, she’ll knit herself a pair of fingerless gloves.

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[http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/ILLUMIN.ASP?Size=mid&IllID=5744]

This image comes from an Italian Book of Hours (‘The hours of Laudomia de’ Medici’), originating in Florence around 1502 (attributed to Giovanni Boccardi). It’s featured at the beginning of the calendar page for January, and isn’t this fellow more fortunate than the peasants above? He has a cosy room and a lovely warm fireplace at which to warm his hands.

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This wonderful image is found in the Book of Hours of Henry VIII, created in France circa 1500. Again, it’s the image for January in the calendar, and it depicts both the scene outdoors, with snow falling on the logpile (and the servant sent to retrieve wood for the fire) and the scene inside of people huddling by the fire or drinking a warming quaff. What else was there to do on a chill January day?

The theme of people drinking or feasting is a common one in January calendar pages. Here’s another pleasant image of people (and a cat) keeping warm .

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[http://utu.morganlibrary.org/medren/SearchResults.cfm?imagename=m399.002v.jpg&subject1=january&subject2=&boolean=AND&totalcount=104&current=61&page=ICA000114888]

This scene of domestic cosiness is found in the Da Costa Hours, from Bruges circa 1515.

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[http://utu.morganlibrary.org/medren/SearchResults.cfm?imagename=m632.001r.jpg&subject1=january&subject2=&boolean=AND&totalcount=104&current=70&page=ICA000139549]

Here’s another January dining scene, from the January pages of a French Book of Hours dating from circa 1520. This time a dog is in the picture, not basking by the fire but begging his share of the meal (cat and dog behavior have clearly not changed a whit since Medieval times).

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I also like this little marginal detail of a man warming his damp, cold toes in front of a roaring fire (and trying to warm his socks, by the look of it too).
This image is found in a Psalter from Bruges, circa 1255 – 1265.

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[http://utu.morganlibrary.org/medren/SearchResults.cfm?imagename=m106.001r.jpg&subject1=january&subject2=&boolean=AND&totalcount=104&current=22&page=ICA000095382]

This fellow can multi-task – warm his feet and sip a warming cup of what I like to think is a lovely mulled wine (my drink of preference on a chilly January day!) He is found in the January pages of a French Psalter and Book of Hours also dating from around 1265.

We’ve already seen a cat and a dog sheltering from the cold with their people. Here’s another January image featuring some wildlife:

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[http://utu.morganlibrary.org/medren/SearchResults.cfm?imagename=m399.014r.jpg&subject1=winter&subject2=snow&boolean=OR&totalcount=19&current=14&page=ICA000114909]

Here a Capricorn goat is seen in the winter landscape, grateful no doubt for his warm coat. He may be found in the margins of the Da Costa Hours, Bruges, circa 1515.

january9

[http://utu.morganlibrary.org/medren/SearchResults.cfm?imagename=m6.003v.jpg&subject1=winter&subject2=snow&boolean=OR&totalcount=19&current=3&page=ICA000139325]

And finally, this isn’t specifically a January image (more of a late February/March Pisces image) but I do like this illustration of a pair of fish in a snowy landscape – can’t you just feel the sharp cold of that water? They swim in a Belgian/French Book of Hours created circa. 1480.
I hope these chilly images have warmed your day!

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