The Golf Book (Book of Hours)

The Golf Book (Book of Hours) f. 29v, December, pig slaying


f. 29v, December, pig slaying

The painting shows the inside of a country farm with two separate buildings. In the foreground is a slaughterman pinning an animal down with his right knee whilst slitting its throat (in the late Middle Ages it was usual to depict the animal rather expressively with its mouth open) and moving its leg to make its blood flow quickly into the skillet held by a female peasant. The bundles of firewood next to the woman will be used to burn its hide. Inside a shed on the left, a woman breaks branches of firewood in her hands to feed the fire of the oven where the bread will be baked – two loaves are shown on a wooden bench. A peasant brings four unbaked loaves on a tray from the shed opposite where a woman kneads the dough in a large kneading trough. The property is surrounded by a fence with a magpie perched on it waiting to take advantage of the leftovers when the peasants finish their work on the animal. Two gentlemen with their huntsmen can be seen in the background setting off to hunt a stag being hounded in the top part by a pack of dogs.
The border around f. 29v shows several putti holding frames. These figures were commonplace in Hellenistic and Roman art. This does not mean that Simon Bening used specific Roman models as a basis, but that he followed what had become quite a widespread custom in his period. Like other classic motifs, putti were adopted by the proto-Renaissance of the 12th century, although in that period and until the mid 14th century they only appeared in sculpture. In Rome, at the end of the Dugento, however, putti began to shift from sculpture to painting, a movement that encompassed three phases. In the first phase some putti began to appear in the acanthus borders of mosaics and parietal paintings; in the second, they were incorporated into the composition, albeit in a way intended to resemble a classic sculpture worked into the decoration of the architectonic frame; and in the third, they were depicted as living beings floating in the air. This motif disappeared for almost fifty years, from the mid 14th century onwards (apart from in the marginal decoration of manuscripts) before reappearing in late-fourteenth-century paintings in the plastic arts. Thanks to Jacopo della Quercia and Donatello, putti became widespread, appearing in all manifestations of visual arts until the extinction of the baroque style in the 19th century.
Depicted in grisaille in the bottom border are several children in two teams facing each other playing a game of strength on two sledges. The children on the sledges hold each other’s hands whilst the members of each group pull ropes to make one of them let go and fall off.

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