Bramantino1504 approx. - 1509

Sforzesco Castle

Sforzesco Castle
Milan, Italy

The zodiac sign depicted at the top right of the "December" tapestry is Capricorn. The scene takes place in a vaulted room, where country folk gather to shelter from the cold.
The architectural backdrop of this tapestry is surprising as it ideally continues forward, enveloping the viewer in a play of theatrical illusion. Through two arches a landscape can be seen: a castle nestled between snow-covered mountains and leafless trees. In the centre of the room is a large cauldron on the fire, inside which salami and sausages are being cooked, which a woman is stirring, while a man tries to embrace her. On the left, another countryman inflates a pig’s bladder to make a balloon for a child. To complete the scene, two pigs are feeding, and vegetables and everyday objects are scattered on the floor. Further back, another group of peasants is depicted in a circle around a pedestal, on which stands an old man with a long beard, armed with a sickle and his feet bound by a rope - identifiable with the god Saturn, god of Time and protector of country folk. The caption of the month reads: "December brings enjoyment, at home, for the newborn sheep and for the fowl, it salts the pigs and brings work even to idle children" ("GAVDERE PARTO - CVM GREGE / CASA FRVI - AVCVPE - ET SVES / SALIRE PROLIS INGERIT / DECEMBER OPERAM INERTIBUS »). The tapestry of "December" is among the most lively in the series for its richness of description. It testifies to the innovative iconographic choices of Bramantino: he alludes to the killing of the pig, the most common subject of Italian and European illustrations, but avoiding the dramatic scene of the killing or butchering of the animal and focusing instead on the large cauldron in the middle. The abundance of food and the carnal embrace are all elements coming from the Carnival tradition, as symbols of regeneration. The scene taking place in the background, on the other hand, with the peasants gathered around the god Saturn, is of a completely different character - sacred and pagan at the same time.


  • Title: December
  • Creator: Vigevano manufacture. Tapestry maker Benedetto da Milano, from cartoons by Bartolomeo Suardi known as Bramantino.
  • Date Created: 1504 approx. - 1509
  • Location: Castello Sforzesco, Museo delle Arti Decorative, Milan
  • Location Created: Vigevano
  • Physical Dimensions: 470 x 503 cm
  • Type: Tapestry
  • Rights: Comune di Milano - Civiche Raccolte Artistiche, Castello Sforzesco, Milano
  • External Link: https://artidecorative.milanocastello.it/
  • Medium: Wool and silk
  • Art Movement: Renaissance
  • Art Form: Tapestry
  • Original title: Dicembre

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