Site Map


The Illuminated Manuscripts of the Limbourg Brothers

 Paul, Herman and John Limbourg

Dutch Medieval Illuminators

The brothers were born sometime in the 1370s and they all died of the plague in 1416

The Limbourg Brothers were masters of illuminated manuscript painting. They had an extraordinary courtly style, graceful and refined. In the year 1413 Paul, Herman and John Limbourg
 were selected by the French Duke of Berry, Jean de Berry, to illuminate the Très Riches Heures, a  Book of Hours. This masterpiece of manuscript illumination is widely regarded as the greatest success of Gothic book illumination as well as the highlight of medieval painting. According to mediaeval scholar John W. Bradley "The reign of the afflicted Charles VI. of France, disastrous in the extreme to the material welfare of his own subjects, full of untold misery to the poor, and of oppression to the growing community of artisans and traders, was nevertheless, as regards literature and the arts, a period of progress and even splendor. The King's incapacity, by affording his uncles and brothers opportunities for fingering the revenues during the self-appointed and irresponsible regencies, enabled them to gratify their magnificent tastes in the purchasing of costly furniture and the ordering of splendid books. Louis of Orleans, usually credited with the worst of this prodigality, was by no means singular in his conduct. His uncle, the Duke of Berry, while daily earning the execrations of the tax-payers by his unscrupulous employment of the public money, was constantly enriching his library, and both he and his brothers and nephews were in the habit of sending priceless volumes, illuminated by the best artists, as wedding and birthday gifts, to each other, or their wives or acquaintances. We talk, and justly, of the fine taste and noble love of literature of Jean de Berry. His contemporaries, at least those beneath his own rank, looked upon him as a tyrant and plunderer."

 Sadly the Duke along with all three brothers perished in the plague epidemic of 1416 and the book was not completed until some time later. In Medieval times book illumination materials were extremely costly, and included ground up precious stones and gold and silver leaf. The labour involved was tremendous and illustrated manuscripts often took years and sometimes decades to complete. Only the rich and powerful could afford to purchase such masterpieces. The best illuminators, such as the Limbourg Brothers, were celebrities, highly sought after. They received sumptuous gifts and money from their royal patrons.


Illuminated manuscripts represented early Christian culture and values as well as courtly splendor.  Most prominently featured are the holy symbols of the Christian faith--ChristSaints, The CrossVirgin MaryChalice, Keys, The Anchor, Wheat Animals, Fish, Angels, Birds, Insects  and Satan.

Require more information about The Limbourg Brothers? Poke around every nook and cranny of the known universe for information this subject.
Search Here

© If you like this page and wish to share it, you are welcome to link to it, with our thanks.

If you feel you have worthwhile information you would like to contribute we would love to hear from you. We collect essential biographical information and artist quotes from folks all over the globe and appreciate your participation. When submitting please, if possible, site the source and provide English translation. Email to



References -Illuminated Manuscripts, by John W. Bradley 1895