Ivlivs : Ast quando excepit Leo flauus adultos / Ignes pratorum gramina falce cadunt. Wan aber nun die Sonn die oberst Himmelshöhe, / Erreicht hat, ist es Zeit das man das gras abmehe.

Universitätsbibliothek Erlangen-Nürnberg


The Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg owns a considerable number of engravings by Matthäus Merian the Elder (1593-1650), one of the most important engravers and publishers of his time. The seventh sheet from a cycle of 12 Labours of the Months, of which the university in Erlangen owns 9 sheets, is shown here. This series, in which Merian collaborated with the well-known French artist Peter Aubry (1596-1666), was created around 1622 and shows topographical views of the area around Basel, albeit in reverse. Labours of the Months had been a popular cycle since the Middle Ages with representations of the 12 months, often linked to the symbols of the twelve signs of the zodiac. While the signs of the zodiac symbolise a clearly defined sequence of time periods, the Labours of the Month reflect the activities of people in the corresponding month. The month of July is shown here. In the foreground is a man with a scythe standing under a large lime tree, in the background several men and women are busy with the hay harvest, other country people bring the scene to life. Geographically, this Labour of the Month is probably set in the field between Riehen and Basel.

On the upper left edge is the sign of the zodiac belonging to July, the lion. The scene is explained by a Latin distich and the corresponding German translation. This Labours of the Months cycle comes from the Margraves of Brandenburg-Bayreuth’s former private library.