MS M.399, fols. 5v–6
April: Farmyard Scene
Da Costa Hours, in Latin
Illuminated by Simon Bening (1483/84–1561)
6 3/4 x 5 inches (172 x 125 mm)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1910
MS M.399 (fols. 5v–6)
Known as the Da Costa Hours because of its second owner, Don Alvaro da Costa, chamberlain to Manuel I of Portugal, this masterpiece is by Simon Bening, the last great Flemish illuminator. Famous and sought after during his lifetime, he was regarded, along with Giulio Clovio, as one of the five greatest illuminators of his day. The manuscript is celebrated for its cycle of full-page calendar illustrations that accurately portray the passing of the seasons. Such cycles had not occurred in Flemish manuscripts since their initial and singular appearance, almost exactly a century earlier, in the Très Riches Heures of the duc de Berry, which Bening must have seen.