Printer Friendly Version

It's About Time

Symbols in the Weaving
Belgium (Brussels)<br>Circle of Bernard van Orley<br><i> Month of September</i>, 1525-28<br>Silk, wool; tapestry weave<br>Minneapolis Institute of Arts<br>The William Hood Dunwoody Fund
zoom Belgium (Brussels)
Circle of Bernard van Orley
Month of September, 1525-28
Silk, wool; tapestry weave
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
The William Hood Dunwoody Fund


In times past, the months of the year were a favorite theme for large wall hangings called tapestries. This tapestry, titled Month of September, belongs to a set of twelve. It illustrates the grape harvest and the making of wine—important events for that time of year.

In the central scene two men stomp grapes in a large wooden vat while a man and a woman add more grapes. Beyond them, the harvest continues as people cut grapes and carry them out of the fields. Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, watches over these events from above.

Framing the main scene, a wide oval band features the signs of the Western zodiac. Libra, the sign for September, appears at the top center. Alternating with the zodiac signs are twelve pairs of women who stand for the twenty-four hours of the day. Each holds an hourglass representing the passage of time. Numbers running along the band’s outer edge indicate the hours of the day, and the background changes from light to dark, showing day and night at this time of the year. Stars are scattered in the darkest, nighttime part at the bottom.

Tapestries such as this served not just as decorations but also as insulation, covering the walls of chilly churches and castles. Made of costly materials like wool and silk, these huge weavings required the painstaking work of many highly skilled workers. They were luxury items, ordered and purchased only by the wealthiest and most powerful people.

spacer related images 1.  + 2.  + 3.  + bracket spacer
1. September’s freshly harvested grapes are stomped for the making of wine.
2. A pair of scales is September’s zodiac sign, known as Libra.
3. A pair of women, representing two hours of the day, hold hourglasses to measure time.


December 2007