Saturday, April 3, 2010


In April, high ground is made ready for the sowing of flax, declared Ibn al-Awam in his 12th-century treatise, "The Book of Agriculture".  An Arab living in Spain, he went on to state that this is the time when "young aubergines are bedded out to be picked in October and beans and artichokes are ready for eating.  At this time the date palm is fertilized and pruned and sowing is made of gherkins, garden beans, the cucumber-melon, rue, henna and rice.  Now the cuttings of jasmine and citron are planted ... while in Seville they sow orach and other precious plants which may be eaten in six weeks.  (Lord, Philip, trans. A Moorish Calendar. 1979.)  What an exotic springtime!

Here is a fine fellow plowing his high ground, perhaps, as al-Awam said, getting it ready to sow flax.  This square panel is adapted from one of many panels on the "Creation Embroidery", a monumental work dating to ca. 1100 CE which resides in the Cathedral of Girona in Spain.  Even in its fragmentary state, this embroidery measures 3.65 m x 4.7 m and is one of the most remarkable images of the medieval cosmos which also includes creation myths, classical references, and images of the months of the year with activities associated with each month.   The piece is worked in linen and wool on a wool ground fabric using stem stitch and Bokara couching.  You can see the entire splendid embroidery as well as the original "April" design here: