We’ve asked members of the Getty community to share short reflections on works of art they’re thinking about right now. These recordings feature stories related to our daily lives.
This week, curator Larisa Grollemond thinks about how calendars link us to the middle ages. To learn more about this artwork, visit: https://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/3500/.
Over the next few weeks, look for new recordings every other Tuesday.
Listen to the full series of short reflections here.
JAMES CUNO: Hi, I’m Jim Cuno, president of the J. Paul Getty Trust. In a new podcast feature, we’re asking members of the Getty community to share short reflections on works of art they’re thinking about right now. We’ll be releasing new recordings every other Tuesday. I hope you’ll find these stories about our daily lives—from laundry on the line to a dog at a scholar’s feet—thought provoking, illuminating, and entertaining.
LARISA GROLLEMOND: I’m Larisa Grollemond, assistant curator of manuscripts at the Getty.
When we first started working from home back in March, what now seems like really an eternity ago, I started keeping track of time by counting off the weeks. I eventually stopped around week 13 or so, but I think, as many of us have experienced, there are lots of different ways that we mark time: walking the dogs, eating meals, your 100th zoom call of the week. So I’ve been thinking a lot about the ways that medieval people marked time.
And as the months passed by, how all of the seasonal markers that we rely on to keep track of time passing seem even more important. This is a calendar page for July from a Book of Hours, which was the kind of manuscript that many medieval people relied on as a guide to daily prayer. They often also have these calendar pages which are really practical as well as often really beautifully illuminated. And this one shows a list of saints’ days in alternating colors, sort of like the holidays would be marked for us on a normal wall calendar. Memorial Day, Passover, the Fourth of July.
These are also often decorated with seasonal markers, usually something like an agricultural chore that you’d have to do during that time of year. Here for July, you can see a man and woman pictured at the bottom of the page reaping wheat, and it must be really hot. The man’s legs are bare and the woman’s over skirt has been pulled up. They both look like they could really use a break.
Even though probably not many of us are reaping wheat, I think I feel a new connection to the person who must have used this calendar to find their place in time, as the days feel both interminably long and weirdly compressed at the same time, and watching all the hallmarks of the seasons passing that we’ve come to expect come and go. And I think that the predictability and regularity of a calendar is reassuring. It’s kind of heartening to think that July in France in the early 15th century when this manuscript was made might have felt like July in Los Angeles in 2020.
CUNO: To view this July calendar page from the workshop of the Bedford Master, made in Paris, France, around 1440 to 1450, click the link in this episode’s description or look for it on getty.edu/art/collection.
JAMES CUNO: Hi, I’m Jim Cuno, president of the J. Paul Getty Trust. In a new podcast feature, we’re asking members of the Getty community to share short reflections on works of art they’re thinking about right now. We’ll be releasing new recordings every other Tuesday. I hope you’ll fin...
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Like a historical tour of art starting with cave man onward.