December: Roasting Slaughtered Pigs
Hours of Henry VIII, in Latin
Illuminated by Jean Poyer
The Dannie and Hettie Heineman Collection; deposited in 1962, given in 1977
Illuminated around 1500 by the artist Jean Poyer, The Hours of Henry VIII receives its name from the possible but unproven eighteenth-century tradition that holds King Henry of England once owned this splendid manuscript. By following the simple instructions, you can explore every painting of this Renaissance masterpiece and learn how Books of Hours helped their readers to pray.
Books of Hours contain more or less standard texts—Calendar, Gospel Lessons, Hours of the Virgin, Hours of the Cross, Hours of the Holy Spirit, Penitential Psalms with Litany, Office of the Dead, and Suffrages—as well as a number of common accessory prayers. Based on the frequency and variety of added devotions, it appears that scribes included these for owners who wished to personalize their prayer books.
December: Roasting Slaughtered Pigs (fol. 6v)
In December the pigs that were fattened in November are butchered. Resting on a bed of kindling and covered with twigs, the hogs are singed prior to butchering, for which the man prepares by sharpening his knife. At the right a woman has collected the pigs' blood in a large pan.
The left margin shows the Meeting of Joachim and Anne at the Golden Gate (for the Feast of the Conception of the Virgin, December 8), Sts. Barbara, holding her tower (December 4), and Nicholas, shown resuscitating the three youths (December 6).
At the right are St. Thomas the Apostle, holding a builder's square (December 21), the Nativity (December 25), Sts. Stephen Protomartyr, with a rock on his head (December 26), John the Evangelist, blessing a cup of poison (December 27), and a group of the Holy Innocents (December 28). The zodiacal sign is Capricorn, the Goat.