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Sources: The Castello del Buonconsiglio - Frescos of the Months

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This picnic shown in this set of frescos from the Castello del Buoconsiglio in Trento, Italy is nice because it provides a larger social context in which an event of this sort might occur. They date to the last decade of the 14th century.

The frescos are part of a series illustrating activities of the months of the year, combining agricultural tasts with leisure pursuits of the upper class. (The painting for January shows a delightful snowball fight.) The months of May and June show a procession of well-dressed couples (and they are, apparently, all couples) processing through a flowery landscape accompanied by a group of musicians. In the depiction of May, several couples are sitting in the meadow making floral wreaths. And in the background two couples are seated around a small round table in a field at the base of some rocky hills. Close at hand is a spring, contained by a man-made well-head.

tapestry: Trento fresco

Trento fresco

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The table looks rather substantial, considering that someone must have hauled it out into the countryside. The tablecloth is shown as being hemmed in the round to fit the table and you can see a faint birds-eye diaper pattern in the cloth, which is typical for tablecloths.

On the table, there are four small flat round objects that I'm guessing might be trenchers. (Or maybe five, if there's another one hidden under the hand of the man seated at the left.) Three knives are visible, suggesting that each diner may have their own, but no spoons are seen.

The central dish on the table is a shallow bowl. While the details of its contents are not particularly clear, the general outline, put in a context with other dining scenes, suggests it may be a whole roast fowl. At the front edge of the table is something with a sort of vase-like silhouette. (Based on the depiction of a shadow behind it, it appears to be standing upright, rather than being something lying on the table.) At the right edge of the table are two other unclear objects

One of the diners has turned to lean over the well-head and appears possibly to be washing her hands. Unlike in other depictions of outdoor picnics, there are no vessels containing drinks cooling in the water. In fact, there don't appear to be any drinking vessels or cups present at all.


Higuera, Teresa Pérez. 1998. Medieval Calendars. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London.

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