The Hours of Charles of Angoulême

The Hours of Charles of Angoulême Calendar: July (f. 4r)


Calendar: July (f. 4r)

Wheat threshing

The scenes depicting the months of June and July are closely related, being two stages of the same task. After mowing the wheat in June, it is then threshed in July –under the Leo sign of the zodiac– to separate the grain, used to make flour, from the stalks which are then dried to make hay. 

The backdrop for the painting is a rather plain indoor setting delimited by a bare wall, and seems to read from right to left. Bundles of mown wheat are on the right. The threshing is done in the middle of the scene. Three farmers toil away at this particularly arduous work with flails, a tool consisting of a very hard wooden swipple attached to a wooden handle by a leather thong. An example of one can be seen in a late-thirteenth-century illumination in the martyrology and obituary of the abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Pres in Paris (BnF, Latin 12834, fol. 64v). This tool was used in the West until the late 19th century and the onset of threshing machines. 

The scene painted by Testard is completed on the left by a couple (featuring the same female farm worker as in the month of June) busy with a fork which the man seems to be cleaning. These two characters are probably about to use their tools to store the hay in the open shed nearby.
Maxence Hermant
Curator – Bibliothèque nationale de France

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