Introducing the reader and viewer to Simon de Varie's exquisite book of hours, a woman holds up an escutcheon, or shield, in the first illumination of the book's series of frontispiece miniatures. With its profusion of heraldry, Jean Fouquet designed this page to emphasize not only Varie's piety but also his pride in his lofty new status: Varie had only been ennobled shortly before he commissioned this manuscript.
The shield was overpainted in the 1600s with the arms of the Bourbon-Condé family but originally held Varie's arms. The banner supporting the shield displays Varie's motto: Plus que jamais (More than ever) and Vie à mon desir (Life according to one's desire). Cleverness is the rule here: in the writing of the A and M the letters are joined together in a monogram, and the second phrase forms an anagram of Simon de Varie's name.
Inspired by his contact with Italian Renaissance painting, Fouquet painted the woman as a sturdy, three-dimensional figure. Modeling the volumes of her body on simple geometric forms--spheres for the turban and head and cones for her lower body and the individual folds of her dress--he imbued the scene with calm monumentality.