The May Calendar Image from The Golf Book

Before discussing the May from the Golf Book, I’m going to be lazy, and link to a post from two years ago about May day and May calendar images from books of hours. This calendar image from a book of hours is an image of a Maying boat expedition.

May from the Golf Book manuscript 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

This page showing May from the Golf book is an image from the British Library’s manuscript Additional 24098 folio 22v. This May calendar image is from a sixteenth century  book of hours from the Netherlands workshop of Simon Bening and better known as The Golf Book. The image shows a characteristic aristocratic 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 appears to be an additional Maying party on the bridge above.

The style of the images in The Golf Book is very similar to that of panel paintings, and more “painterly” than is usual in earlier illuminated manuscripts, and typical of Bening’s workshop. The Golf Book is a partial ms. 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 people playing games (like golf—The Golf Book has a calendar page with a scene at the bottom showing people playing a game like 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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