February – Breviarium Grimani

Facsimile leave of the calendar

Grimani Breviary, Bruges (?) ca 1510-20

A late gothic carved and gilded frame encloses this evocative snow-covered winter landscape illustrating the month of February. It is a rustic genre scene set in the Low Countries. In a hazy blue sky lit by a flashing comet the covered chariot of Helios races over, drawn by winged horses.

This large breviary – unusual both in size and length – consists of 831 parchment leaves. It was produced between 1510 and 1520, probably in Bruges, in the school of Alexander Bening (d. 1519) and his son, Simon (d. 1561). Of the numerous artists who provided independent illustrations for this work, Gerard Horenbout was the most gifted. The twelve calendar pictures, among others, are his and these have contributed most to the fame of the breviary.

This portrayal is a manifestation not only of the artist’s accurate knowledge of life in the countryside but also of his painterly skill in rendering light and atmosphere by his sure sense for composition; all the details are meaningfully incorporated into the whole.

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