Bramantino, Tapestry

Benedetto da Milano after a design by Bartolomeo Suardi known as il Bramantino, Tapestry Representing December, 1504-1509 (inv. arazzi 39)

Location: Rocchetta, 2nd floor, Museo degli Strumenti Musicali, Room XXXVII (Balla Room)

The Month of December represents one of the most interesting of a cycle of twelve tapestries commissioned by Gian Giacomo Trivulzio, executed by Benedetto da Milano and designed by the painter Bramantino. Dominated by the sign of Capricorn, the scene is set in a large room; in the background is a winter landscape overlooked by a majestic castle. At the centre of the composition is a cauldron in which salami and sausages are being stirred by a woman whilst a man is attempting to embrace her. In the foreground, to the left, a man is inflating a pig’s intestine, making a balloon in which a child seems very interested.
The scene in the background focuses instead on an old man who is holding a sickle and whose feet are bound by a woollen thread. The old man, representing the deity Saturn, is being worshipped by a group of farmers.
In his design, Bramantino skilfully exploits and reinterprets ancient literary and iconographic sources. December is the month in which pigs are slaughtered; however the tapestry refers to the practice while avoiding bloody images. The central theme of this series of masterpieces is the continuous and cyclical flow of the seasons, described by an activity specific to each month. The Tapestries, each of which leads into the next, focus on the close relationship between man and nature. The inscription on each tapestry also describes the characteristics of the month. When translated, December’s reads: "December allows us to revel at home, for the birth of the lambs and trapping of fowl, it allows us to salt the pork and also gives idle children things to do."