Yesterday I had the great pleasure of visiting Mary Kay from Out and About in Paris and taking in one of the current exhibitions at the Louvre, on Les Belles Heures du Duc de Berry. This is one of the world's finest medieval manuscripts, which normally lives in the Cloisters at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, bound up tightly as manuscripts tend to be, but which has been unbound for photography and restoration and travelled to the Louvre for this temporary exhibition. As soon as I (by chance) heard about this exhibition, I was raring to go to Paris to see it. Any exhibition is, in a sense, an unmissable event, as the paintings featured may never be brought together again, but this was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Once these pages get bound back up again, obviously they'll only be able to go on display one page at a time, so this is really it if you want to get to see these 47 leaves on show at once (you have until the 25th of June to see them if you can make it to Paris).
Truly, these are amazing works of art - (mostly) surprisingly realistic for their date (beginning of the 15th century); technically mind-boggling - I have no idea how they managed to paint some of the details, I suspect that, like Jan van Eyck, they must have done some of it with a single hair; adorned with gold, and bursting with incredibly vibrant colours. I couldn't help but think that, if they had done these works of art on canvases that everyone could easily see, instead of on tiny manuscript pages, the Limbourg brothers would be as famous as the likes of Raphael or Van Eyck himself. Even if you haven't heard their names, though, you may have seen some of the illuminations from the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, probably the world's most celebrated medieval manuscript, which I would loooove to see but I think it's sadly no longer on public display due to its apparently delicate condition.
If you'd like to learn more about Les Belles Heures, here's a great video (featuring someone with a particularly wanky British accent) produced by the Met from when the exhibition was on there, which I stole off Mary Kay.
I'm planning to blog the rest of my (brief) trip soon (you can head over to Mary Kay's blog now for her version of events if you just can't wait!), but in the meantime, here's some happy snaps from the Louvre. You weren't allowed to take pictures of the manuscript itself (with good reason, I think - conservation issues aside, the pages are small and packed full of detail, so quite a traffic jam built up looking at the pages, so it would have been a real pain if everyone had been snapping photos as well), so here are some not-as-good photos of the exhibition catalogue.
Cy Twombly ceiling in the previous room.