Les Tres Riches Heures (5): May

Well, Paris has changed a bit. Jean de Berry’s main Parisian residence was the famous but poorly archived Hôtel de Nesle, which sat on the left bank of the Seine in the Saint Germain area, opposite the Louvre. It fairly rapidly fell apart after the Duke died in 1416, with a contribution from the time honoured practice of stealing lead from the roof, although the distinctive tower on the river survived for quite a few centuries. I think that’s the bit on the left side of the building complex in the Limbourg’s painting. The Limbourg’s tower is square, and the actual tower was round, but a lot of these things are a bit unreliable in medieval art. The buildings have also been identified as the Conciergerie (which had a square tower) and associated buildings, but I’m not convinced. Jean de Berry clearly liked to have his own stuff in the paintings.


It’s another beauty which conveys the impression that the Duc de Berry spent most of his time hanging out with his friends in seasonal recreations, which is probably true. The mindblowing room of tapestries called the Hunts of Maximilian in the Louvre, from about two hundred years after the Limbourgs, demonstrates much the same sort of thing. The Hôtel de Nesle is fascinating, in part because so little is known for such an extraordinary building (it even had piped water). The following pictures convey a little of what happened to it.

A recreation of the building in its prime, done in 1894. The Seine is on the left
Mid 17th century, our building is on the far left
..also mid 17th century

The site is now where the Institut de France stands, and the small river you see in the pictures above must have been culverted centuries ago. See this view from , France’s own terrific equivalent of Google Earth (for France)

The Institut de France is at the arrow




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