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.
August: Threshing (fol. 4v)
The wheat harvest continues in August as the cut stalks are brought in oxcarts to the barn, where three men beat them with jointed flails.
Threshing with flails loosens the kernels of wheat from their stalks so that they can then be winnowed and thus separated from the chaff.
Starting at the top left margin is St. Peter (for the Feast of St. Peter in Chains, August 1), St. Stephen, with a rock on his head (for the feast of the discovery of his relics, August 3), and the Assumption of the Virgin (August 15).
At right are Sts. Louis of Toulouse (August 19) or possibly Bernard of Clairvaux (August 20), Bartholomew the Apostle, holding his butcher's knife (August 24), and King Louis IX of France (August 25).
The two women without attributes probably represent female saints in a general way, since there is only one female saint, Clare (August 12), listed in the month other than the Virgin. The zodiacal sign is Virgo, the Virgin (holding a palm of martyrdom).