Calendar,  Medieval manuscripts

March from Walters Museum W.425

March calendar image from Walters Museum W.425
Walters Art Museum, W.425, fol. 3r, Brussels ?, ca. 1520-30 © 2011 Walters Art Museum, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License

Walters Museum W.425 is a fragmentary prayer book. Fortunately, all the calendar images are extant. In the astrological medallion in the border on the left, Aries, the sign of the ram, is featured. The astrological symbol is, again, particularly worn, and I wonder if that’s because someone holding the prayer book open  had a thumb resting there.

This March image is the first to feature a “naturalistic” border in the calendar images. On the right is a strawberry, and just below the strawberry, a strawberry blossom. The strawberry, because of the three-lobed leaves was associated with the Trinity, and the white blossoms with purity.

The labors of March typically show people plowing or otherwise digging and preparing soil for planting, or, in warmer climes, pruning the vines. In the Walters W.425 March image, in the foreground, a man on the left is using a space to dig. On the right another man with a basket on his back appears to be inserting a pole in the ground. Behind them a third man is tying vines to supports.

March from the Walters Museum W.425 fol. 3r showing one man spading the dirt while another inserts a post in the ground, and a third ties vines to a posts.
Detail from Walters Art Museum, W.425, fol. 3r, Brussels ?, ca. 1520-30 © 2011 Walters Art Museum, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License

I suspect that the men in the foreground are meant to be turning the soil with a spade preparatory to planting new vines and inserting supporting posts for them (but I’m guessing!). In the distance men seem to be engaged in much the same labor, spading or digging the earth and inserting posts for vine support. Notice that all of the people are dressed warmly, with long sleeves, layers, and hats, even though the ground is bare of snow. Everyone is still wearing shoes and leggings as well. This is spring, but it’s early spring, and the air is chilly.

The scene is fairly typical for March  in a wine-growing region.


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