Last, for December, houses on the plain, / Ground-floors to live in, logs heaped mountain-high, / And carpets stretched, and newest games to try, / And torches lit, and gifts from man to man / (Your host, a drunkard and a Catalan); / And whole dead pigs, and cunning cooks to ply / Each throat with tit-bits that shall satisfy; / And wine-butts of Saint Galganus’ brave span. / And be your coats well-lined and tightly bound, / And wrap yourselves in cloaks of strength and weight, / With gallant hoods to put your faces through. / And make your game of abject vagabond / Abandoned miserable reprobate / Misers; don’t let them have a chance with you. My new BLOG POST: The Month of December starts with a sonnet by Folgore Da San Geminiano (c. 1250-1317), translated by Dante Gabriel Rossetti in his book “Dante and His Circle,” (Roberts Brothers, Boston, 1893). http://www.sonnets.org/folgore.htm
The Month of December is a fresco, and it comes from the Torre Aquila in the Castello del Buonconsiglio, in Trento, Italy. It is part of an amazing fresco Cycle of the Twelve Months painted on the walls of the tower’s 2nd-floor main room. Today, only eleven of the original 12 panels survive as a 16th-century wooden spiral staircase, connecting the tower floors, destroyed the painted panel of March. The famous painted Cycle of the Months is divided into twelve panels, one for each month. Each one of the twelve panels is separated by a slender column, distinctive yet subtle, so as not to disturb the natural continuity between months and the seasons.
This exceptional room, 6 x 5,8 x 3 m in size, was commissioned by Prince-Bishop George of Liechtenstein, as a quiet, atmospheric retreat, away from the rest of the Castello’s busy and noisy state quarters. It has been suggested and widely accepted that the painter of this extraordinary fresco Cycle of the Months was Maestro Venceslao, a Czech painter, popular in the Tyrol area of the time. https://www.cultura.trentino.it/eng/Cultural-venues/All-cultural-venues/Documentation-centres2/Torre-Aquila-Eagle-Tower
Fresco panels in Torre Aquila are rare and special. They document life in the Trentino area, with references to the aristocratic pastimes throughout the year, or the peasant activities and duties to their masters. They also depict a vivid landscape, romanticized…bare and covered with snow for the January panel, rich and fertile, autumnal, covered with fallen leaves, harsh and inhospitable for the scene depicting December.
My attention turns to the upper right corner where on the frozen ground of a forest, the Trentino peasants are busy once more. Numb by the cold, wearing short white tunicles, one of them even bear-footed, with axes and hatchets in their hands, they are depicted wood harvesting. They chop forest trees down, pile wood logs up, carry heavy loads to the wagons, stack wagons up with neatly cut logs and finally carry precious firewood to the city, to heat the houses during the long winter days. What an accomplishment in such uninviting circumstances…
Trentino Torre Aquila frescoes love presenting anecdotal details. The depicted city, cold and bleak, is setting the tone … Icicles hang from the attics, neatly built in stone and wood, of the Buonconsiglio Castle and the top of its circular tower. The city boasts double defensive walls and plenty of gabled houses with red roof tiles that deftly form a neat residential area, with a decorated church on its left side. It is a stark and unembellished scene, yet… a caravan of mules, loaded with goods, heads towards the castle at the top of the city, while, on the lower part of the composition, two knights on horseback, escort a riding noble lady for a winter outing. Harry up… they seem to tell her, and water your horse before setting off! Let’s follow the stream and visit the Water Mill for an al fresco lunch. What a sight…
Maestro Venceslao painted a dream world for Prince-Bishop George of Liechtenstein… a world that collapsed in 1407 with a successful rebellion. The Prince was not particularly liked by the locals. He was a conservative, authoritative and harsh leader of anachronistic demands. The painted room of Torre Aquila was sealed up, almost forgotten… Walking back in time in a world of endlessly working peasants and privileged aristocrats was no more… https://www.buonconsiglio.it/index.php/en/Buonconsiglio-Castle/collections/Introduction and https://books.google.gr/books?id=L3e0BgAAQBAJ&pg=PA11&lpg=PA11&dq=cycle+of+the+months+paintings&source=bl&ots=PDmmhZPn37&sig=ACfU3U0ZvpPwd-ZSa8dnhL4AUn2uBLt26g&hl=el&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjVxcGIzNzmAhWRGewKHQiuD5g4ChDoATAGegQIBxAB#v=onepage&q=cycle%20of%20the%20months%20paintings&f=false
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