The series of the twelve "Months" is the most illustrious cycle of tapestries in the Museum. Each tapestry, woven in wool and silk, is dedicated to a month of the year, for which it shows the human labours typical of the month, the fruits, the vegetation and the weather. In each representation there is a didactic text describing the characteristics of that month and of the relative zodiac sign, placed in the upper right corner of each tapestry.
This tapestry cycle was made at the beginning of the sixteenth century, commissioned by Gian Giacomo Trivulzio known as Il Magno (Milan, ca. 1440 - Chartres, 1518) - Marshal of France and Marquis of Vigevano - in a factory set up in Vigevano and directed by the tapestry maker Benedetto da Milano. The preparatory cartoons are attributed to Bartolomeo Suardi known as Bramantino and, from an iconographic point of view, refer to a late mediaeval conception of the illustrated calendar, updated with the inclusion of classical and Renaissance elements.
The tapestries remained the property of the Trivulzio family until they were purchased by the Civic Collections in 1935.
The coherence of the twelve scenes and the recurring iconographic elements (the decorated border, the coat-of-arms of Gian Giacomo Trivulzio, the Sun, the zodiacal signs) confirm the unitary origin of the series, which derives from the invention of a single artist. The Trivulzio series of Months was also designed to be displayed in a single room, as if to form a continuous frieze, in counter-clockwise order. The direction is indicated by the gesture with which the figures at the centre of each tapestry point to the Sun in the upper left corner.
Today the group of tapestries is exhibited in the Sala della Balla of the Museum, displayed in such a way that they can be read together and continuously.
The border consists of a continuous frieze of hexagons and in the corners and at the centre of each side is the shield of Gian Giacomo Trivulzio with its green and gold vertical bands. The representation of agricultural work was important to Trivulzio, both for his personal interest in agriculture, but also to affirm a celebratory symbolism inspired by the Latin classics. Exalting rural practices underlined his commitment to peace, as opposed to the abandonment of the fields, synonymous of war. The tapestries thus appear as a political celebration of Trivulzio, bearer and protector of peace in Lombardy so that country folk might devote themselves to the work of the fields, to feast days and ceremonies.
The series of months begins with "March", at the time considered as the first month of the year. The zodiac sign shown in the upper right corner of the tapestry is Aries. An allegorical figure wearing a garland of oak leaves fastened around his head, with a small bird resting on the right hand and by small heads sprouting from its dress indicates with a rod the Sun, in the upper left. On the pedestal on which he stands is an inscription: «March is the beginning of the year. The whole earth resounds. All things are generated from it; it drives men, flocks, fish and birds to love" ("ANNVM INCOHAT. RESONITVR/TERRA. OMNIA VNDE GERMINAVIT/HOMINES PECORA PISCES AVES/AGITQVE AMORE MARTIVS»). The peasants are intent on pruning fruit trees and digging the ground, both agricultural occupations of the month in question. Two Roman soldiers support the branches of an oak tree that frame the Trivulzio coat-of-arms. Bramantino, with this choice of subject, refers to the ancient notion of the month of March as a phase of the year dedicated to the god Mars, hence the two soldiers. Trivulzio was credited with having revived the military valour of the ancients.