Illuminated zodiac man from a 16th-century French book of hours printed on vellum, probably from the workshop of Germain and Gillet Hardouin.
During the late 15th and early 16th centuries printers often borrowed stylistically from manuscripts, and used vellum and colourful illuminations to increase the cachet of printed books. In France this trade was dominated by the Hardouin brothers, who were active between 1510 and 1550. Gillet was a printer, and unusually, all the illuminations were overseen in-house by his brother Germain, who was registered with the Guild of Illuminators.
The “Homo anatomicus”, bloodletting man, or zodiac man — a type of diagram that codified the relationship between the microcosm of the human body and the divine macrocosm — had its origin in classical thought and was a feature of European and Middle Eastern books of hours, almanacs, and medical texts throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance. This example depicts man as a corpse surrounded by text explaining the relationship between the signs of the zodiac, the parts of the body, and the four humours. The temperaments associated with the four humours are depicted in the smaller illuminations. Clockwise for the top left they are: the choleric temperament symbolised by a warrior with lion; the sanguine, with a hawk and monkey; melancholy surrounded by stars; and the phlegmatic with a lamb.
Paris: Hardouin, early 16th century.
Single leaf from a French book of hours, printed on vellum and hand illuminated (185 x 115 mm). On the recto, a depiction of the “anatomical man” as a skeleton surrounded by information about the humours, the zodiac, and the best times for bleeding, surrounded by an elaborate, uncoloured border. On the verso, the calendar for January with an elaborate border of acanthus leaves and human figures and an illuminated initial. Trimmed closely at the top edge and gutter side, wrinkling and spotting of the vellum. Very good condition.
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