Labours of the Months thumbnail 1
Labours of the Months thumbnail 2
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 10a, The Françoise and Georges Selz Gallery

Labours of the Months

Panel
ca. 1450-1475 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This roundel is one of six acquired by the museum in 1923 (Museum nos.C.123-128-1923). It was originally from a set of 12 roundels depicting the ‘Labours of the Months’. The museum purchased them from the sale of the contents of Cassiobury Park in Hertfordshire. They had probably been installed in the windows of the house when it was remodelled in the early years of the 19th century. We do not know where they were located before that date.

The depiction of the months and occupations associated with them appear early in the Medieval period on church facades and interiors. They also appear in illuminated manuscripts and start to become more common in stained glass in the 14th and, especially, the 15th centuries.

The occupations depicted in these ‘Labours of the Months’ are mostly agricultural and are thus intimately associated with the landed class and their agricultural labourers. They appear in both religious and secular settings.

‘Labours of the Months’ are found all throughout Europe and the occupations depicted are standard but do vary in accordance with the local climate. Harvesting, for instance, began earlier in the year in Southern Europe. Feasting and drinking scenes, mostly aristocratic in form, appear in either December or January in all European countries. These months are traditionally associated with major festivals in the Church year and the consumption of large quantities of meat. Much livestock was killed at this time of year to provide food over the winter months.

Some of the ‘Labours of the Months’ stained glass roundels believed to have been painted in England share the same imagery. This imagery must have come from a common source, most likely from a series of woodblock engravings which may have circulated between the glazing workshops.

In the centre of this roundel, a woman bends over and cuts grain with a sickle. Behind her a man binds together some grain into a sheath and another sheath stands in the background. A scroll at the top bears the word ‘Augustus’, indicating that this activity is taking place in the month of August. The grains that were grown in the medieval period were wheat, barley, rye and oat. By this date it was common agricultural practice to plant two crops of grain a year. One was sown in the autumn months and harvested in early summer (‘winter wheat’) and another crop with a shorter growing season was sown in the spring and harvested in late summer (‘spring wheat’). The harvest of the ‘spring wheat’ is the activity taking place in this roundel.

The paintwork on this roundel is very detailed and highly skilled, indicating the work of a prominent glass-painting workshop. The techniques employed include ‘stickwork’ which makes use of a stylus to scrape away areas of paint to produce highlights, as seen in the woman’s apron. Smear shading and stipple-shading are used to create depth in the background.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Additional TitleMonth of August (assigned by artist)
Materials and Techniques
Clear glass with yellow (silver) stain and details painted in brown pigment.
Brief Description
Roundel of clear glass with yellow (silver) stain and brown painted details. Depicting a man and a woman harvesting in a field and illustrating the month of August from a series of the Labours of the Months. Made in England about 1450-75.
Physical Description
In the middle of the roundel a woman is using a sickle to cut grain. On the right a man kneels to bind a sheaf of grain. Both figures are wearing hats made of straw. In the middle ground, there is a standing sheaf and in the background there is a fortified townscape. Above the scene is a white scroll with painted letters 'Augustus'.
Dimensions
  • Including perimeter leads diameter: 21.5cm
  • Within the perimeter leads diameter: 19.8cm
Measured for the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries
Marks and Inscriptions
Augustus
Credit line
Given by Art Fund
Object history
These six roundels (C.123-128-1928) were purchased from Cassiobury Park, near Watford, Hertfordshire in 1923. They had probably been installed during James Wyatt's remodelling of the house for the 5th Earl of Essex in 1801-3.

They were bought from Rory Grosvenor Thomas with the assistance of the National Art Collections Fund.
Historical context
This roundel is one of six acquired by the museum in 1923 (Museum nos.C.123-128-1923). It was originally from a set of 12 roundels depicting the ‘Labours of the Months’. The museum purchased them from the sale of the contents of Cassiobury Park in Hertfordshire. They had probably been installed in the windows of the house when it was remodelled in the early years of the 19th century. We do not know where they were located before that date.



The depiction of the months and occupations associated with them appear early in the Medieval period on church facades and interiors. They also appear in illuminated manuscripts and start to become more common in stained glass in the 14th and, especially, the 15th centuries.



The occupations depicted in these ‘Labours of the Months’ are mostly agricultural and are thus intimately associated with the landed class and their agricultural labourers. They appear in both religious and secular settings.



‘Labours of the Months’ are found all throughout Europe and the occupations depicted are standard but do vary in accordance with the local climate. Harvesting, for instance, began earlier in the year in Southern Europe. Feasting and drinking scenes, mostly aristocratic in form, appear in either December or January in all European countries. These months are traditionally associated with major festivals in the Church year and the consumption of large quantities of meat. Much livestock was killed at this time of year to provide food over the winter months.



Some of the ‘Labours of the Months’ stained glass roundels believed to have been painted in England share the same imagery. This imagery must have come from a common source, most likely from a series of woodblock engravings which may have circulated between the glazing workshops.



In the centre of this roundel, a woman bends over and cuts grain with a sickle. Behind her a man binds together some grain into a sheath and another sheath stands in the background. A scroll at the top bears the word ‘Augustus’, indicating that this activity is taking place in the month of August. The grains that were grown in the medieval period were wheat, barley, rye and oat. By this date it was common agricultural practice to plant two crops of grain a year. One was sown in the autumn months and harvested in early summer (‘winter wheat’) and another crop with a shorter growing season was sown in the spring and harvested in late summer (‘spring wheat’). The harvest of the ‘spring wheat’ is the activity taking place in this roundel.



The paintwork on this roundel is very detailed and highly skilled, indicating the work of a prominent glass-painting workshop. The techniques employed include ‘stickwork’ which makes use of a stylus to scrape away areas of paint to produce highlights, as seen in the woman’s apron. Smear shading and stipple-shading are used to create depth in the background.
Subjects depicted
Literary ReferenceLabours of the Months
Summary
This roundel is one of six acquired by the museum in 1923 (Museum nos.C.123-128-1923). It was originally from a set of 12 roundels depicting the ‘Labours of the Months’. The museum purchased them from the sale of the contents of Cassiobury Park in Hertfordshire. They had probably been installed in the windows of the house when it was remodelled in the early years of the 19th century. We do not know where they were located before that date.



The depiction of the months and occupations associated with them appear early in the Medieval period on church facades and interiors. They also appear in illuminated manuscripts and start to become more common in stained glass in the 14th and, especially, the 15th centuries.



The occupations depicted in these ‘Labours of the Months’ are mostly agricultural and are thus intimately associated with the landed class and their agricultural labourers. They appear in both religious and secular settings.



‘Labours of the Months’ are found all throughout Europe and the occupations depicted are standard but do vary in accordance with the local climate. Harvesting, for instance, began earlier in the year in Southern Europe. Feasting and drinking scenes, mostly aristocratic in form, appear in either December or January in all European countries. These months are traditionally associated with major festivals in the Church year and the consumption of large quantities of meat. Much livestock was killed at this time of year to provide food over the winter months.



Some of the ‘Labours of the Months’ stained glass roundels believed to have been painted in England share the same imagery. This imagery must have come from a common source, most likely from a series of woodblock engravings which may have circulated between the glazing workshops.



In the centre of this roundel, a woman bends over and cuts grain with a sickle. Behind her a man binds together some grain into a sheath and another sheath stands in the background. A scroll at the top bears the word ‘Augustus’, indicating that this activity is taking place in the month of August. The grains that were grown in the medieval period were wheat, barley, rye and oat. By this date it was common agricultural practice to plant two crops of grain a year. One was sown in the autumn months and harvested in early summer (‘winter wheat’) and another crop with a shorter growing season was sown in the spring and harvested in late summer (‘spring wheat’). The harvest of the ‘spring wheat’ is the activity taking place in this roundel.



The paintwork on this roundel is very detailed and highly skilled, indicating the work of a prominent glass-painting workshop. The techniques employed include ‘stickwork’ which makes use of a stylus to scrape away areas of paint to produce highlights, as seen in the woman’s apron. Smear shading and stipple-shading are used to create depth in the background.
Associated Objects
Bibliographic References
  • Williamson, Paul. Medieval and Renaissance Stained Glass in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London, 2003. ISBN 1851774041
  • Kerry Ayre, 'English Figurative Stained Glass Roundels Produced before 1530', Journal of the British Society of Master Glass Painters, xix, 1 (1989-90), pp.1-17
  • Kerry Ayre, Medieval English Figurative Roundels, (CVMA), Summary Catalogue 6, British Academy 2002
  • J. Baker, English Stained Glass of the Medieval Period, London, 1978
  • S. Crewe, Stained Glass in England c.1180-c.1540, London, 1987
  • T. McAleavy, Life in a Medieval Castle, London, 1998
  • Bernard Rackham, A Guide to the Collection of Stained Glass, Victoria & Albert Museum, 1936
  • Herbert Read, 'The Labours of the Months: A Series of Stained Glass Roundels', The Burlington Magazine, XLIII (1923), pp.167-8
  • J. Waterson, 'From Cologne to Cassiobury: provenance of the Stoke D'Abernon glass', Country Life (24 May 1984), pp.1504-6
  • J.C. Webster, The Labours of the Months in Antique and Medieval Art at the End of the Twelfth Century, Princeton, 1938
  • C.Woodforde, The Norwich School of Glass-Painting in the Fifteenth Century, London, 1950
Collection
Accession Number
C.126-1923

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record createdMay 5, 1998
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