SIX MONTHS OF THE YEAR
BY ABEL GRIMMER
These colorful roundels originally formed part of a series of the twelve months of the year that Abel Grimmer painted in 1606. Full of delightful vignettes, each composition is executed in Grimmer’s celebrated style marked by a preference for clearly articulated scenes set in elegant, orderly landscapes. The sky is a cool shade of blue in January, when townsfolk skate on a frozen river and frolic in the snow near a fortified tower with a bridge. In March, farmers sow a field while in the foreground, a family transports a crate on a table. In April, villagers milk cows and tend their sheep on a grassy field. By May, the weather has become temperate enough for gentlefolk to picnic on their castle grounds as they listen to music. June signals the start of summer, when it is time to shear the sheep; a merry family travels across the foreground in a horse-drawn wagon, passing a man who stands on his head, adding an amusing note to the scene. Autumn draws to a close in November: the trees have lost most of their leaves and a peasant drives pigs to the slaughter in preparation for the long winter ahead.
The iconography of Abel Grimmer’s months of the year can be traced back to the calendar illustrations of Medieval Books of Hours, such as the Limbourg brothers' Très Riches Heures executed for the Duc de Berry, c. 1411-1416. In these, saints’ days and other religious feasts were listed by month, and on the facing page an artist would illuminate a seasonal landscape with a secular activity associated with that time of year. Depictions of the twelve months and the seasons continued into the 16th and 17th centuries, when their greatest exponent became Pieter Bruegel the Elder, who established this genre as an independent category of painting. Grimmer's paintings are conceived very much in the tradition of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, both conceptually and stylistically.
PROPERTY FROM A NEW ENGLAND COLLECTION