Saturday, May 14, 2016

1500s The May Boating Party - Gathering Newly Green Branches

May Boating Party on a River Barge on the Bruges canal. This depiction, representing the month of May, shows men & women collecting newly green branches to carry home in both the boat & on horseback. Those in the boat welcome Spring with music as well.  May, from Book of Hours (Latin), The Golf Book is famous for its lively depictions of sports & pastimes. It takes its name from one of its illustrations which shows an early game of golf. The Golf Book is a book of hours, a collection of devotional texts for private prayer.  Books of hours were very popular between the 13th & 16th centuries. Each one was unique because it was written & illustrated according to the needs & desires of the person who commissioned it.  This Golf Book was produced by Flemish artist Simon Bening, the leading master of illumination in the 16C. Bening had a workshop in Bruges, & it is likely that the Golf Book was produced there in the early 1540s. His daughter Levina was also a miniature painter who went on to work as an artist in England. Netherlandish (Bruges), c. 1540. BL Golf Book1 f22 MS Add 24098, fol. 22v. 

1500 - Book of Hours by Jean Poyer, known as The Hours of Henry VIII - May - Picking Branches

In May, during the 16C, ladies & gentlemen often participated in traditional May festivities, when people went out to the woods to collect flowers & green branches to decorate their homes. It was a celebration of the 1st spring planting & symbolic of a return to life & fertility.

1515 Da Costa Hours, in Latin Illuminated by Simon Bening (1484–1561) Belgium, Bruges, May Boating Party. Collecting green branches & playing music.

1660 Published by Matthew Collings; After Crispijn de Passe the Elder; After Maarten de Vos. May; boat with two couples collecting green branches, drinking, and making music.

Book of Hours: A Boating Party (ca 1500), Flemish. Cambridge: Fitzwilliam Museum, Ms 1058-1975 f5v.  Calendar Page for May. A couple stand on a bridge watching a punt carrying a party of musicians and a pair of lovers beneath. In the boat, a man plays the lute, a woman sings from a sheet of music, and a man plays an alto-sized recorder with a flared bell. The branches of new leaves decorating the boat celebrate the regeneration of spring.