The series of tapestries known as the Trivulzio Months was made between 1504 and 1509 in Vigevano by the tapestry-maker Benedict of Milan from drawings by the painter Bartolomeo Suardi known as Bramantino. The twelve tapestries were commissioned by Gian Giacomo Trivulzio, probably to celebrate the marriage of his eldest son Gian Nicolò Trivulzio to Paola Gonzaga.
The twelve months of the tapestries have a common layout – the scenes that characterise each month are enclosed within a frame made up of five crests which alternate – the five crests of Gian Giacomo Trivulzio who commissioned the work, his two wives, his son Giovanni Nicolò together with his wife Paola Gonzaga, while the month is depicted in the middle of each scene.
The figure representing the month is sitting or standing surrounded by images showing the agricultural produce for that time of year. The focus is on the activities of the Lomellina area where the Trivulzio family had their main estates and where the tapestries themselves were woven.
The emphasis on the month is also characterised by symbols of the sun and the zodiac sign that mark this time of year, in the upper part to the left and right of the figure. Each figure makes a gesture pointing to the right as an eloquent way of persuading the reader to move from one month to the next, assuming therefore that the tapestries were placed in a circular arrangement, to be read counter-clockwise.
The twelve tapestries were acquired for the Castello Sforzesco museum in 1935 as part of the entire Trivulzio collection.
The current appearance of the tapestries is the result of natural aging combined with the accidents that have affected some of them, and restoration work that has taken place over the years for which there is little or no documentation.
Since the nineteenth century, the tapestries have undergone periodic restoration, and the only indications of the work carried out at such times can be found in photos and sketches published in the early twentieth century and more recent studies conducted by Forti Grazzini and Pertegato. The actions taken in the course of the nineteenth century were of a supplementary nature, and two tapestries in particular exemplify the extent of the failure and the ways and means by which it was remedied.
The month of June had four major lacunae, symmetrical to each other, traces of which can still be seen today, which were caused by some chance incident when the tapestry was folded in four as if it were a sheet. When the tapestries were not on display, they were folded or rolled up; and most of the lacunae and missing parts have appeared around the folds due to a variety of agents: holes made by mice, burns, dampness, etc. The four lacunae on the month of June were repaired by reconstructing the missing parts with re-weaving. The operation was conducted very well from the mechanical point of view while repairing the figurative elements was approximate, especially for the background parts.
The month of September still has visible damage in the form of irregular shapes that occurred when repairing missing parts, probably due to mice, when the tapestry was folded in four. It was restored by re-weaving, completely reconstructing the warp which is now fully legible. Because of the poor quality of the dyes used at that time (late nineteenth century), the skin and body of the September figure has undergone a colour change that is incongruous when compared to the original, still visible in some parts.
In the same period, darning repairs were also carried out on the full series using patches and pieces cut to shape from spare woven cloth, applied on the reverse of the tapestries.
Between 1950 and 1960 Aldo Faccioli carried out major restoration of the entire series. The work was conducted in Florence in the family workshop, and involved removing the linings and mending done in the nineteenth century, and then cleaning the entire woven surface. Faccioli then reconstructed the lacunae using the same nineteenth-century procedure, that is, restoring the warp with light cotton yarn and reweaving the weft with large monochromatic backgrounds.
He used yarn with synthetic dyes that stand out and are distinguishable from the original weaving. Fitted with new linings and blue bands in natural fabric, the tapestries were displayed, with various vicissitudes, on wooden frames until 1983, the year in which routine maintenance was carried out by Stefano Filippi.
The tapestries were first exhibited in the Chancellery Hall; then from 1963, after re-arrangement, in the Ballroom. They were removed in the early 1970s when the ballroom was assigned to another function. In 1992, thanks to the insistence of Clelia Alberici, then director of the civic collections, the new exhibition site was set up.
During the years 1988-1991, Francesco Pertegato removed the old linings applied by Aldo Faccioli and made new ones of yellow cotton satin for all the months (except September and November). He remade the selvages (March, April, August, January, February) and created a new display system.
In 2003 and 2012, routine maintenance was carried out by Annamaria Moras-Sutti, consisting of mending and darning unstitched parts, cleaning and removing dust, and checking the suspension system.