It’s May!

I’m going to be really lazy, and link to a post from two years ago. I started to post the paper I’ve been working on, off and on, for years on images of May (literary and artistic) in medieval literature, but figured y’all would be bored to tears. But for those with a vague interest in May Day, Maying, Beltaine, and manuscript images, here’s an image of a Maying boat expedition.

An image from a medieval book of hours showing a boating scene on one page and the calendar of holy days and feasts for May on the other page

The British Library’s Golf Book f. 22v–23

The image is from British Library manuscript Additional 24098 folio 22v. It’s a sixteenth century manuscript from the Netherlands workshop of Simon Bening; the work the page is from is The Golf Book. The image shows a characteristic artistocratic Maying scene, in its depiction of a spring landscape (Bening is known for his landscapes), with green leaves, and branches of greenery in the boat. You’ll note there’s a lutenist, and a pipe player in the boat, presumably performing a Maying song or May carol. There’s possibly an additional Maying party on the bridge above; I think there is, but I can’t quite tell.

The style of the images is very similar to that of panel paintings, more “painterly” than earlier illuminated manuscripts, and typical of Bening’s workshop. The Golf Book is a fragment that consists of calendar images, similar to those in other Books of Hours, with an emphasis on leisure rather than seasonal labor. It is particularly well known for the miniature border images showing children playing games (like golf—this work contains the earliest known depiction of golf, hence the title). You can see other images from The Golf Book here and here, in a calendar scene for June, showing jousting. Some medievalists may be particularly interested in the toy windmills, or in the spectacles visible in this self-Portrait of Bening.

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