Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Sunday, 1 January 2012


File:Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry Janvier.jpg


The Duke of Berry, dressed in blue and seated to the right, and wearing a handsome fur hat to indicate his status, celebrates the Christmas and Epipany seasons. There appears to be the exchange of gifts - New Year or Epiphany ones - and a cultivated and splendid lifestyle. This is a pattern which would have been replicated or emulated across Europe in royal and aristocratic households.

Note the canopy and cloth of estate with his arms above the Duke's head and the tapestries or hangings with their battle scenes decorating the room. The firescreen is also an interesting feature, as is the woven rush matting - rushes on the floor clearly did not mean a strewn hay stack as one might be led to believe, but a fitted covering in such a household.

On the left is a sideboard or buffet with a display of gold plate as was expected on such occasion to display princely magnificence, and other splendid plate is in use at the feast, as well as an aquamanile for washing the hands of those dining at the table. The pieces shown are very similar to the relatively few surviving examples from the period in museums and collections such as those of the Oxford and Cambridge colleges.

The painting is attributed to the artist identified as the 'the courtly painter'.

No comments: