Les Tres Riches Heures de Mrs. Mole

Let’s take a break from the typical spookiness of this blog for something truly beautiful.

Illustrator Ronald Searle (who really deserves another feature post) created a very special project for his wife, now available as a hardcover book.

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

Les Tres Riches Heures de Mrs. Mole

12 Responses to “Les Tres Riches Heures de Mrs. Mole”

  1. I imagine a project such as this can be quite therapeutic for the artist as well. It seems that a loved one of the victim of a catastrophic illness can feel so helpless and in need of some degree of empowerment.

    • shewalkssoftly Says:

      I agree. I’m studying integrative medicine at the moment and I just went over a few therapeutic techniques that actually empower the sufferer AND loved ones.

  2. I love your response to that one photo and how you wrote your mother postcards every week for a year when she was battling cancer. That’s so beautiful – I just want you to know that that touched me. Thank you for sharing your blog.

    • shewalkssoftly Says:

      You are so welcome. Even the greatest gestures cannot save the ones we love sometimes, but they are worth the effort, 100%.

  3. That is really beautiful… Certainly put a smile on my face.

    • shewalkssoftly Says:

      Me too. I’d love to see the rest of the Mrs. Mole drawings. They instantly inspire happiness (especially after knowing the reason behind them).

  4. Lindsay Larkin Says:

    So touching… both Mr. and Mrs. Mole’s story as well as yours.

  5. So charming. Feel a little weepy actually, ha!

  6. These are so sweet ❤

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