What’s your sign?

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June 2, 2013 by Gail Armstrong

If you were born in June, it’s either Gemini or Cancer…

Gemini is, of course, represented by twins. I am not a Gemini myself, but I am a mother of twins, age 4 (if you were wondering why I don’t post more often, now you know). I was working on an Easter post back in March, but missed my window to get it published in timely fashion and before you know it, here it is June 1st. Lacking a definite theme to explore, but finding myself with some time, I thought – – why don’t I just search my favourite illuminated manuscripts online database (www.bl.uk) for image descriptions containing the word “June” and see what turns up? At the least I knew I’d find calendar depictions of typical June activities.

Well, it turns out June is a fairly boring month in illuminated calendars. Really all people got up to was mowing the lawn.

june 1 image

[http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/ILLUMIN.ASP?Size=mid&IllID=52203; Detail of a miniature of three men scything grass, on a calendar page for June.Origin: England (London/Westminster or East Anglia?), attributed to the Queen Mary Master]

Or, occasionally, mowing the sheep.

June 2 image

[France, W. (Rouen?), and England or Netherlands, S.; http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/ILLUMIN.ASP?Size=mid&IllID=19730]

But I did find myself intrigued by some of the zodiacal images for June. For example, this Gemini pair…

june 3 image

[http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/ILLUMIN.ASP?Size=mid&IllID=11338; Psalter (the ‘Shaftesbury Psalter’) with calendar and prayers, England; 2nd quarter of the 12th century]

They seem laudably fond of each other, for siblings. Hmm, maybe a little too fond. Must try to dissuade my twins from boating excursions in the buff. It’s a little weird.

Then there’s this pair (right margin, inset in roundel)– like mine, a boy and a girl.

YT 3   5

[http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/ILLUMIN.ASP?Size=mid&IllID=34689; Book of Hours, Use of Rome (‘The Dunois Hours’), France, Central (Paris); c. 1440 – c. 1450 (after 1436)]

Again with the nudity…waltzing naked in the garden is again not quite what I have in mind when I say “I hope they remain close when they’re grown”.

Of course closeness can go too far…this pair for example:

june 5 image

[http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/ILLUMIN.ASP?Size=mid&IllID=717; Albumazar, Treatise on astrology, Netherlands, S.; 2nd or 3rd quarter of the 14th century]

I think when mine start kindergarten in the fall I’ll request separate classes after all.

This image makes me wonder if the artist actually meant to represent conjoined twins…

june 6 image

[http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/ILLUMIN.ASP?Size=mid&IllID=5765; Psalter, including a calendar, canticles, France, Central (Paris?); last quarter of the 13th century]

…or just ran short of paint.

These two look to have a healthy closeness…

june 7 image

[http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/ILLUMIN.ASP?Size=mid&IllID=11254; Psalter with Old English gloss, the Psalms preceded by a calendar and compotus material (ff. 1-12), and followed by canticles and litany (ff. 119-132v), and prayers (ff. 143-148v), England, S. ( Winchester); 3rd quarter of the 11th century, probably after 1073]

…although if I saw my twins holding smoking beakers of chemical concoctions I’d be afraid, very afraid.

Alas, this pair resembles my twins most closely of all…

june 8 image

[http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/ILLUMIN.ASP?Size=mid&IllID=5664; Matfré Ermengau of Béziers, Breviari d’Amor (Catalan prose version), Spain, E. (Catalonia, Gerona?); last quarter of the 14th century]

Note to self: no swords in their Christmas stockings this year.

Next post I’ll cover June’s second sign, Cancer, represented by the Crab. The crab in the last image above gives a preview of the cuddly crustacean depictions to come.

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