Les Tres Riches Heures de Mrs. Mole
Let’s take a break from the typical spookiness of this blog for something truly beautiful.
47 jewel-like drawings by Ronald Searle made for his wife, Monica, each time she underwent chemotherapy. On New Year’s Eve 1969, Monica Searle was diagnosed with a rare and virulent form of breast cancer. Each time she underwent treatment, Ronald produced a Mrs Mole drawing ‘to cheer every dreaded chemotherapy session and evoke the blissful future ahead’. Filled with light and illuminated in glowing colours, the drawings speak of love, optimism and hope.
Like the medieval illuminated manuscripts such as the 15th-century Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, to which the title of this book refers, the 47 drawings are on an intimate scale and were never intended for publication. The story of Monica’s survival against the odds and the part played by the encouragement of her husband will move many people who have either experienced cancer for themselves or been affected through a close family member or friend.
What a profoundly touching gesture. I remember when my mother was battling cancer, I made her a postcard every single week for over a year (complete with quotes or loving statements on the back). I eventually assembled the collection into an album for her. While she did not survive this journey, I believe in the power of art to bring joy and sooth the spirit. It warms my heart to think that the selfless bond between two people (whether lovers, family or friends) can inspire this kind of valiant effort.
“Everything about them had to be romantic and perfect. I drew them originally for no one’s eyes except Mo’s, so she would look at them propped up against her bedside lamp and think: ‘When I’m better, everything will be beautiful.’” ~ Ronald Searle