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The Labours of the Months: February
Italian, Venetian
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A young man kneels beside a wooden block and cuts stakes with a hatchet. A line of stakes has already been set in the field, which is ploughed into rows ready to be planted, perhaps with vines or olives. The stakes would be used to support the young plants.

This is one of 12 small pictures that together show the ‘labours of the months’. We believe this scene may represent February. Although each painting is supposed to show a different month, the weather throughout the year appears remarkably similar – a clear blue sky with a haze of white over the distant blue mountains.

Key facts
Artist Italian, Venetian
Full title The Labours of the Months: February
Group The Labours of the Months
Date made about 1580
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 13.6 x 10.6 cm
Acquisition credit Layard Bequest, 1916
Inventory number NG3109.2
Location in Gallery Not on display
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The Labours of the Months

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These 12 small pictures may have been made to decorate the recessed panels of a pair of doors, and seem to have been planned in pairs with the figures facing each other. They show the ‘labours of the months’ – the rural activities that take place each month throughout the year.

They are now framed in two groups of six, arranged in an order which reflects that in other, similar cycles and seems to make sense in relation to the seasons depicted, although we cannot be certain this is the original order.

January: A warmly dressed old man sits by a stove.

February: Trimming stakes with a hatchet.

March: Pruning the vines.

April: A cooper making a barrel.

May: A young man holds two rods.

June: A labourer holds a sheaf of corn he has cut with his scythe.

July: A labourer threshes grain with a flail.

August: Exhausted from fruit picking, a labourer sleeps beneath a tree.

September: The vines are harvested and the grapes pressed.

October: The field is ploughed.

November: A hunter with his hawk and hounds.

December: Slaughtering a pig.

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