Sunday, 12 July 2009

OTS: Medieval Pageant 3

This is ‘January: Dinner scene’ from the Da Costa Hours (in the Morgan Library, New York), illuminated by Simon Bening, c. 1515, from Bruges in Belgium. The book is named after its second owner, Álvaro Da Costa, who was armourer to King Manuel the Fortunate of Portugal.
The caption, written to fill the space available for a caption, says:
‘On a cold January night, a blazing fire to sit by and the comfortable thought of dinner! On festive occasions the overhead candelabra might be filled and lit, but in the average thrifty household the firelight and the single lighted candle served for all practical purposes.’
Although this is a cosy domestic scene, for some reason it feels a bit sinister to me. It might be the shifty-looking geezer sitting by the fire with his shoes off, or it might be because it reminds me (vaguely) of the inn scene near the end of ‘Robin Hood’ where the bishop comes to the tavern, sits by the fire and overhears Richard 1, who’s back in England disguised as a monk. Or it might be that incredibly demonic-looking black cat sitting there, with its long shadow and beady eyes, ignoring everything that’s going on. It could be one of Philip Pullman’s Daemons, or from a painting by Balthus.

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