May: Picking Branches
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.
May: Picking Branches (fol. 3)
Another leisurely couple partakes of May's pleasure, the gathering, on the first of the month, of flowering or leafing branches.
While one dog slowly leads the couple along a dirt path marked by branches tied across tree boughs, a second dog runs deeper into the woods on an uncharted track.
The rich border illustrations on the left side of May's calendar include images of Sts. Philip and James (May 1) and the True Cross (for the Feast of the Finding of the True Cross, May 3).
The zodiacal sign for Gemini portrays the Twins in naked embrace, possibly a visual reference to the couple depicted on the top half of the page.