Miniatures showing the labours of the months thumbnail 1
Miniatures showing the labours of the months thumbnail 2
+4
images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Portrait Miniatures, Room 90a, The International Music and Art Foundation Gallery

Miniatures showing the labours of the months

Manuscript Cutting
late 1540s-early 1550s (painted)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

This double-sided leaf, possibly from the calendar of a book of hours, seems to illustrate on one side the month of April and on the other side the month of May. April shows lovers making music by a canal while in the fields beyond a cow is milked, the sheep are taken out to graze and on a chimney pot a stork makes itís nest. May shows a scene of May Day merrymaking; a boat trip with musicians, a floral procession and dancing in the square.

Simon Bening was one of the most celebrated illuminators of his time. He worked mainly in Bruges. His work often comes close to contemporary panel painting, particularly in full-page miniatures, such as these, where the image is surrounded by a simple border similar to a picture frame.

In the late medieval period Books of Hours were a type of prayerbook for private use by the laity, containing psalms and devotions for the eight canonical hours of the day. They were typically small and portable. Simon Bening’s workshop made many Books of Hours, often containing calendar illustrations.

Object details

Categories
Object type
TitleMiniatures showing the labours of the months
Materials and techniques
Watercolour on vellum
Brief description
Leaf with labours of the months, probably from a book of hours, attributed to Simon Bening, Flanders (Bruges), late 1540s-early 1550s.
Physical description
Double sided leaf, probably from a Book of Hours.
The scenes are typical of illustrations for religious calendars listing the saint's days month by month at the beginning of books of hours.
One side shows the Month of May - with a boating party in the foreground. The other side shows the Month of April (not August as stated in the Summary Catalogue (1981) - with courting couples in a meadow.
In a modern gilt frame.
Dimensions
  • Framed height: 18.3cm
  • Framed width: 15.5cm
  • Frame height: 180mm
  • Frame width: 135mm
Production typeUnique
Credit line
Salting Bequest
Object history
Hollingworth Magniac (1786–1867), Colworth, by 1861: his sale, Christie's London, sale beginning 2 July 1892, lot 193 (4 July 1892). George Salting (1839-1909), by 1908: acquired as part of the Salting Bequest in 1910 (Salting 2538).
Cuttings from the same manuscript in the V&A collection: E.4575-1910 and E.4576-1910.
Cuttings from the same manuscript in other collections: London, British Library, Add. Ms. 18855, ff. 108-9.
Subjects depicted
Summary
This double-sided leaf, possibly from the calendar of a book of hours, seems to illustrate on one side the month of April and on the other side the month of May. April shows lovers making music by a canal while in the fields beyond a cow is milked, the sheep are taken out to graze and on a chimney pot a stork makes itís nest. May shows a scene of May Day merrymaking; a boat trip with musicians, a floral procession and dancing in the square.

Simon Bening was one of the most celebrated illuminators of his time. He worked mainly in Bruges. His work often comes close to contemporary panel painting, particularly in full-page miniatures, such as these, where the image is surrounded by a simple border similar to a picture frame.

In the late medieval period Books of Hours were a type of prayerbook for private use by the laity, containing psalms and devotions for the eight canonical hours of the day. They were typically small and portable. Simon Bening’s workshop made many Books of Hours, often containing calendar illustrations.
Associated object
E.4576-1910 (Object)
Bibliographic references
  • Robinson, J.C. (ed.). Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Works of Art of the Mediaeval, Renaissance, and more recent periods: on loan at the South Kensington Museum, June 1862. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M. Stationery Office, rev. ed. January 1863. no. 6,836.
  • Catalogue of Miniatures, Leaves, and Cuttings from Illuminated Manuscripts. Victoria and Albert Museum. Department of Engraving, Illustration and Design, by S.C. Cockerell and C. Harcourt Smith (London: HMSO, 1923, 2nd edition). pp. 30-31.
  • Summary catalogue of miniatures in the Victoria and Albert Museum: including enamels, plumbagos, silhouettes and other works in related media: illustrated separately on microfiche in visual catalogue of minature paintings in the Victoria and Albert Museum, ed. by Garth Hall, Haslemere, Surrey, 1981.
  • Renaissance painting in manuscripts : treasures from the British Library, ed. by Thomas Kren, with Janet Backhouse, New York : Hudson Hills Press, c. 1983. pp. 79ff.
  • 100 Great Paintings in the Victoria and Albert Museum, dir. by Gill Saunders, London: V&A, 1985. p. 36
  • Illuminating the Renaissance. The Triumph of Flemish Manuscript Painting in Europe, ed. by Thomas Kren and Scot McKendrick, Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2003. no. 159.
Other number
2538 - Salting Bequest
Collection
Accession number
E.4575-1910

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest feedback

Record createdDecember 15, 1999
Record URL
Download as: JSONIIIF Manifest