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The Labours of the Months: March
Italian, Venetian
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A bearded man wearing a yellow tunic trims vines that have been trained to grow up two trees. The branches of the vine are bare, while the trees have a few brownish leaves. Pruning vines is an activity carried out in Italy in winter when the plant is dormant, and in spring when the new leaves have started to grow.

This is one of 12 small pictures that together show the ‘labours of the months’ – the activities that take place each month throughout the farming year. We think this painting may represent March.

Key facts
Artist Italian, Venetian
Full title The Labours of the Months: March
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 NG3109.3
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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