Tuesday, May 1, 2018

16-17C SPRING Boating Parties - Making Music & Gathering Newly Green Branches

May, from Book of Hours (Latin), Use of Rome (the 'Golf Book'). Netherlandish (Bruges), c. 1540. BL Golf Book1 f22 MS Add 24098, fol. 22v. 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), 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.

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

In May, during the 16C, ladies & gentlemen often participated in traditional May festivities, such as couples heading for the woods to collect flowers & green branches to decorate their homes. It was a celebration of a return to life & fertility.

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. In a 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 & fertility.