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The Labours of the Months

Tapestry
1440-1460 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

A successful harvest was crucial in the middle ages. Manuscripts and tapestries sometimes illustrated the monthly labours required to make it successful. In this example, only half of the tapestry survives, showing the months of July to December.

Scrolls have the names of the months inscribed in the dialect of Alsace, where the tapestry was made. July shows the cutting and gathering of hay; August, the corn being reaped; September, harrowing and sowing; October, cutting the grapes and making wine; November, slaughtering an ox. In December the peasants enjoy the fruits of their labours with a good meal.

This long, narrow tapestry would have hung above a bench in a house or church. It shows the activities of ordinary folk, not the heroics or exclusive pursuits of the nobility who owned most of the tapestries. Plain and utilitarian rural costume is shown, not the fancy patterned materials or modish styles of the upper classes. The simple tools and equipment give us some idea of the labour-intensive work involved although the charming depiction gives a completely false impression of the lives of rural people.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Tapestry woven woollen wefts on a linen warp
Brief Description
Tapestry, woven in wool and linen, Germany (Alsace), 1440-1460; Labours of the Months, July to December
Physical Description
Part of a tapestry showing the Labours of the Months from July to December.
Dimensions
  • Top edge width: 2728mm
  • Bottom edge width: 2722mm
  • Height: 390mm
  • Weight including roller weight: 12kg (Note: Half of tapestry is missing (January to June))
Marks and Inscriptions
  • howmonet
  • ougst
  • fuilmonet
  • herbstmonet
  • vitermonet
  • volrot (Fuilmonet, herbstmonet and volrot are words in the Alsatian dialect)
Subjects depicted
Summary
A successful harvest was crucial in the middle ages. Manuscripts and tapestries sometimes illustrated the monthly labours required to make it successful. In this example, only half of the tapestry survives, showing the months of July to December.



Scrolls have the names of the months inscribed in the dialect of Alsace, where the tapestry was made. July shows the cutting and gathering of hay; August, the corn being reaped; September, harrowing and sowing; October, cutting the grapes and making wine; November, slaughtering an ox. In December the peasants enjoy the fruits of their labours with a good meal.



This long, narrow tapestry would have hung above a bench in a house or church. It shows the activities of ordinary folk, not the heroics or exclusive pursuits of the nobility who owned most of the tapestries. Plain and utilitarian rural costume is shown, not the fancy patterned materials or modish styles of the upper classes. The simple tools and equipment give us some idea of the labour-intensive work involved although the charming depiction gives a completely false impression of the lives of rural people.
Collection
Accession Number
6-1867

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record createdJuly 2, 2004
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