Pigs and pannage
The months of October and November are illustrated by a diptych showing the rearing and slaughter of domestic pigs. In order to depict bread making in the month of December, Robinet Testard decided to bring these two scenes forward a month. […]
Pannage was very important for rural areas in the Middle Ages and consisted of releasing domestic pigs into woodland to feed on acorns or beechnuts. The latter were particularly plentiful in Europe at a time of year when resources were scarce. Once fattened up in this way, pigs could get through the winter or would be slaughtered. Pannage was governed by local customs: farmers were not allowed to use woodlands belonging to secular or ecclesiastical lords unless they paid a pannage fee for the privilege.
As in many of Testard’s paintings, the landscape is very simple. The scene is delimited to the rear by rocky outcrops reminiscent of those in the month of June, although the illuminator opens up the horizon by painting a town in the distance that stands out against the sky. A peasant couple leads their herd of swine along the edge of the forest. The man, armed with a long stick, is about to knock acorns and beechnuts out of the trees for the pigs to forage. Beside him, his wife seems to stroke a pig lying on the ground – a very original image that is most probably a sort of polite nod by Robinet Testard in scene that is usually highly codified.
Musée du Louvre