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Feast & Fast

The Art of Food in Europe, 1500 – 1800

50: Book of Hours

This exquisitely illuminated Book of Hours was designed to aid private prayer and this page lists saints’ days between September and December. The Labours of the Months appear at the top of the pages, alternating with the relevant Zodiac sign. On the left, September shows the grape harvest, followed by Libra; October shows acorn-gathering for pigs, followed by Scorpio. On the right, November shows pig slaughtering, followed by Sagittarius; December shows bread baking, followed by Capricorn. At the sides, good and evil are opposed. At left (traditionally, the ‘bad’ side), Satan presides over the damned in fiery Hell; at right, God is shown in Paradise, with the Tree of Knowledge. At the bottom is The Fall with Eve tempted by Satan to eat the forbidden fruit, and then tempting Adam to do likewise. The combination of pagan and Christian motifs would not have been problematic to its readers since Mother Nature’s ability to provide food was seen as part of the divine order.

Possibly Tours, France, c.1500 – 20

Pigment on vellum

Founder’s Bequest, 1816 (MS 132)

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