Olga's Gallery

Limbourg Brothers Biography

The Limbourg brothers Paul, Jean and Herman (c. 1386/90-1416) were Dutch miniature painters from the city of Nimwegen. They came from a family of artisans, their father being a woodcarver and their uncle, Jean Malouel, the court painter of Isabella, Queen of France, and Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy.

At least two of the brothers, Jean and Herman, are recorded as being apprenticed to a Parisian goldsmith around 1398-1400. By 1402, however, they had seemingly abandoned this trade and, together with Paul, were commissioned by Duke Philip to illuminate a picture Bible (Bible moralisée). Their fee for this was quite high, suggesting that they were already well established as artists, likely not without the help of their uncle, who was the duke's personal valet by this time.

After Duke Philip's death in 1404, all three Limbourgs were hired by his brother, Duke John of Berry. The painters and their new patron apparently became close friends. Paul, the eldest, received frequent gifts from the Duke, and was presented with an extravagant residence, previously occupied by the Duke's treasurer. He was later appointed John's valet in 1413, while one of the younger brothers became a canon of the Bourges Cathedral.

Under Duke John, the Limbourg's main commissions included two books of hours (see note). The first of these, the Belles Heures de Duc de Berry, was finished in 1409. The second, a much more ambitious project known as the Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, was started shortly thereafter. However, all three Limbourg brothers died not far apart in 1416, likely victims of a plague outbreak, before they could finish it. It is perhaps their most famous surviving work.

Book of hours - in Catholicism, a collection of prayers about a specific person to be read at the canonical hours. The book would contain references, often illustrated, to events from the person's life.

Bibliography

The Limbourg Brothers: Nijmegen Masters at the French Court 1400-1416 by Rob Duekers and Pieter Roelofs. Rob Duekers and Pieter Roelofs, 2005.

The Tres Riches Heures of Jean, Duke of Berry by Limbourg Brothers. George Braziller, 2008.

The Art of Illumination: The Limbourg Brothers and the "Belles Heures" of Jean de France, Duc de Berry by Timothy B. Husband, 2009. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.