Thursday, 23 April 2015

Some 'new' strycsitten illuminations

 I have gathered some additional strycsitten images from medieval illuminations and paintings. They can be divided in French type strycsittens and the German type.

French strycsittens

 January, folio 1r. The table is curious and seems to consist of a square dressoir with a round table top.
 February, folio 1v. The wife seems to be sitting on a footstool.
Both illuminations are from the same book illuminated by Jean Poyer in Tours, France around 1500. Both strycsittens are situated in front of the fireplace. The Hours of Henry VIII, manuscript MS H 8, The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, NY, USA.

Servants serving the master in a book of hours. BNF NAL 3116 folio 1v. Dated at the end 15th century. 
Assuming a similar set-up as the previous image, this could be February.

I have shown this image before, but only in grey. It is still unknown to me from which manuscript it originates. 
Also this strycsitten is in front of the fireplace.

Feast of Esther. Folio 129v in Fleur des histoires, BNF Fr 55. Second half of the 15th century.

Jehan Froissart kneeling before the count of Foix. Chroniques of Froissart, British Library manuscript Royal 14 D V folio 8. Last quarter of the 15th century. The strycsitten beneath the canopy is decorated with animals (lions?)

Tristan and Dinadan at the house of Pelinier. Manuscrit du Tristan en prose, BNF Fr 102 folio 179v. dated around 1465-1480. It is a bit difficult to see, but  they are sitting on a strycsitten in front of a fireplace.

The king is sitting at a strycsitten. 
Facta et dicta memorabilia BNF Fr 43 folio 1. Dated  mid 15th century.

The translator reads the Latin text in the library of a noble. A grisaille illumination with a strycsitten in front of the fireplace. The strycsitten swinging backrest is more of a Flemish type. The bench is covered with a cloth and a cushion. Roman de Jean dÁvesnes. Paris, Arsenal MS. 5208 f. 1r. 15th century.

German strycsittens

Cardinal Albrect of Brandenburg as St. Jerome. Painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1526). The painting is in a private collection. A special long green cushion is made for the strycsitten. The table is set on a wooden platform; perhaps to protect it from the animal dung?

Detail of the high altar painted by Friedrich Herlin (1466) showing a strycsitten.  
St. Jacob Church, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany.

St. John with eagle on a strycsitten. Painting by Gabriel Maleskircher (1478). 
Museo Thyssen Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Progress on the Thomasteppich: August 2014 - April 2015

Anne embroidering in the great hall of castle Hernen. The beautiful sun rays were created by the smoke of coming from the fireplace in the next room which had a badly working chimney. Photo made by Geldersch Landschap en Kastelen.

Like the previous progress report on the Thomasteppich embroidery project, I have made a photo for most of the days from August 2014 to April 2015 when Anne did something with her part of the Thomasteppich, and turned these into another small video. During winter time not much was done on the teppich as we were working on our new house. However, the first panels of the tapestry are nearly finished, both that of Anne and Katinka.


Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Making a sedia tenaglia - part 1

We use our medieval replica furniture not only during re-enactment (such as at castle Hernen), but also in everyday live. Most folding chairs as well as my strycsitten are arranged along the dining table. As we were already planning to move to a new and larger house, there was a need for a larger table and extra chairs as well.  I did want to make a different medieval chair and try to steam bend some wood as well, so my choice was to make a sedia tenaglia.

As photos and information on internet only tell you the height and width of a chair, and not the thickness of the wood used, I looked at an example that was easily available: the replica sedia tenaglia at castle Loevestein. Another great source which I used was the construction plan of Charles Oakley of a 16th century German folding chair, which is actually an Italian style sedia tenaglia. The thickness and width of the legs of the chair in Castle Loevestein were 2.5 and 4.5 cm, respectively. That of the chair of Charles Oakley was 2.54 and 5.08 cm (1 and 2 inch), respectively. My thoughts were going in the same direction 2.5 and 4 cm, respectively. The thickness changed during construction of the chair to 2.0 cm for reasons explained later. This is still robust enough to sit on, and saves weight.

The replica sedia tenaglia at Castle Loevestein, Poederooyen, the Netherlands. This chair does not have a bend backrest. As such it can be nearly flat folded. On the other hand if you lean to much backwards, the chair (with you on it) will tumble backwards. This does not happen if the back of the chair is slightly bend.

Measurements of the folding chair at Castle Loevestein; the width of the chair is approximately 50 cm. The black dots indicate the placement of the pins for the mortise and tenon joints.

As I wanted to have the same seating height for the sedia tenaglia as my x-folding chairs, 44 cm, this measurement was also fixed. I also liked to have a deeper seating plateau than most sedia tenaglia, and chose a depth of 35 cm. Using these sizes, the folding X part of the chair could be drawn. Only the height of the backrest and the curvature of the back were left to be determined. The optimum height for the back of the chair depends on the people for whom it will be made (mainly me and Anne). The optimum curvature depends on the stability of the chair when leaning backwards (i.e. the chair does not tumble backwards when you lean on it), the ergonomics of your back while seating, and the wish to have the chair as flat as possible when folded. I think I succeeded very well in finding the optimum measurements for my sedia tenaglia.

Most of the remaining medieval sedia tenaglia are made from either beech or walnut. I chose oak to make my chair, as the table and all my other chairs were made of oak. Oak is a more difficult material to work with, and tougher to bend. I started to cut and plane the oak to the appropriate thickness and width. The next step was to bend the back, which I will cover in the next post. 

Meanwhile, also the caps for the dowels had to be made. I used tenon cutters in the drill press to make the caps. The trick is to have the piece of oak thicker than the tenon cutter can cut deep. This way, the caps are still attached to the piece of oak which makes is easy to centre the drill bit to make the hole in the centre of the cap to attach it to the dowel. This hole is cut just deep enough to hold the dowel. Then the caps are cut loose with a (Japanese) saw, and if you planned it well, the second round of caps is already waiting for you beneath the previous ones. You just have to drill the centre holes and saw these loose as well. Rounding of the caps is done similarly as with the Savoranola chair: using a belt sander or a rasp.

Seven times two caps are waiting in this piece of oak. 
The tenon cutter has done its job and the first seven caps have their centre hole drilled.

The seven caps are cut from the oak piece along this line (arrow) with a Japanese saw (kataba).

The first seven caps are cut loose; the second row of caps is already present due to the deep drilling of the tenon cutter.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Eastern at Castle Hernen

Today and tomorrow (Eastern) we are guests at Castle Hernen (Hernen, the Netherlands), one of the castles of the 'Geldersch Landschap and Kastelen'. We were very surprised and pleased that some new furnishing was placed in the castle. When we had an appointment at the castle last year, all the rooms were quite empty, but now the castle was very alive and attractive. We even could make use of the great hall, where we could dine as if we indeed were the lords of Hernen. 

We had a very privileged lunch at the U-sided table. 
There was one slight disappointment: there were no servants to help us ...

During the afternoon, Bram and I were working on a medieval chest, while Anne and Katinka were embroidering inside - under the scrutinizing eyes of the many visitors. Some more photos of castle Hernen with the Thomasguild can be found on the Facebook site of the castle.

 Also Katinka has nearly finished embroidering her first panel of the Thomasteppich.

Bram and I are discussing which medieval plane is the better one: 
Bram's 14th century north German plane, or my medieval Italian plane. 

 We needed help from Anne to decide which plane was the best.

 To my surprise Anne did choose the plane of Bram: the toat  felt very smooth according to her.

 Ah! Now I know why. The toat! It resembles something ...

Monday, 30 March 2015

A late 15th century folding chair: the sedia tenaglia

The sedia tenaglia is a folding chair with a backrest that first appeared in the late 15th century and persisted throughout the 16th century. Its main area of production was Italy, but these chairs were also found in the Alpine region (Switzerland, France and Austria). It is curious that these x-chairs appeared so late on the medieval scene, as the basic construction is not very different from the Savonarola chair or the late 14th century x-chair, but their seating is far more comfortable (at least my replica is). The main difference with the other x-chairs is that the X is projected at the side of the chair, instead at the front. This makes it possible to extent the legs of the X on one side and to create a (comfortable) backrest.

These two chairs  are from the Museo Storico della Caccia e del Territorio in Cerreto Guidi (Florence) Italy. They were made in Tuscany, date from the 15th-16th century and are made from walnut. The height is 78 cm, the width 37 cm and a depth of 26.5 cm. The seating is quite high, I guess around 50 cm (our seating height is around 43 cm). Both chairs have 7 back legs and a decorated back with circles.

Quite some pieces of the sedia tenaglia have survived and can be found in museums around the world or even be bought at antique houses. The surviving chairs are mostly made from walnut or beech. Beech has the benefit that it is easily bended by steam. The number of legs (for the backrest; the other legs usually number one less) can be an odd or even number and varies between 5 and 7. The wooden plate for the back is usually decorated with circular patterns with a cross in the middle. The following photos give a nice impression of the variety and sizes of the folding chair. The sources of the images are indicated; else they come from museum websites or other places on internet. One of the next posts will concern my construction of a sedia tenaglia.

This late 15th, or early 16th century chair is for sale at an antique dealer for 4800 dollar (at the time this post was written). The following photos show the specific details of the chair. The chair is 80 cm high, 43 cm wide and also 43 cm deep. The wood used for construction is beech.

You can see the wooden hinge dowels between the legs and seating rods.

Not only the back plate is decorated, also the legs and seating have some carved decoration.

The foot rail at the back is fastened with two dowels in the middle (left), 
while the foot rail at the front has two dowels at the ends (right). 

The circular decoration of the back plate. The backplate is fastened to the legs with two dowels at either ends.

The back side of the chair. The side of the chair; strangely the front legs look larger than the back legs.

The following six photos of a sedia tenaglia were made by Gary Halstead in a museum in Strasbourg, France. The chair originates from Switzerland or northern Italy and dates from the 15th century. The chair is made of beech and has seven legs. The photos were found on the greydragon website

 The seating of this chair is not very deep.

These two photos of the backplate show that it was fastened by two dowels at the ends. You can also clearly see that the decoration was made by hitting special punches into the wood.

The outer seating rails are larger and have a sawn out decoration. You can see that the legs are still a bit rough and bear the saw marks.

A sedia tenaglia from Tirol, dating from the 16th-17th century. Kunstgewerbemuseum, Berlin, Germany. 
Height 90 cm, width 46 cm. The chair has six legs. Image from the book 'Oude Meubels' by Sigrid Muller-Christensen.

A simple French sedia tenaglia from the late 15th - early 16th century. Château de la Rochelambert, St. Paulien, France. As the chair is quite fragmented, some construction details, like the front dowel, can be clearly seen. The chair has six front legs as well as six back legs.Image scanned from the book Mobilier moyen-aye - renaissance by Monica Burckhardt.

This sedia tenaglia can be seen in the Museum fur Angewandte Kunst in Frankfurt, Germany. The chair has likely 5 legs.
Behind the table a sedia savonarola can be seen.

This is the only contemporary image I could find of a sedia tenaglia. It appears in the clothing book 'Trachtenbuch' of Matthaus Schwartz of Augsburg, in an image of 1538 when he is 41 years old. The chair is small and only has 4 legs at each side.

These two chairs (3 photos) are from the Palazzo Madama in Turin, Italy and date from the 15th century. 
They have similar decorations as the one of the auction, circles with a cross. The 7 legs of these chairs are bend.

Left: A sedia tenaglia made in Italy from beechwood. It has a height of 80 cm, a depth of 48.8 cm and a width of 51.3 cm. The seating height is 47 cm. The chair has 5 legs and a decorated back plate. The chair is now on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA, USA. Right: A sedia tenaglia with seven legs dating from the early 16th century and made from beech. 86.5 cm height, 44 cm width and 27.5 cm deep. Castello Sforzesco, Milan, Italy. Image from the book Mobel Europas II-Renaissance - Manierismus by G. Windisch-Graetz.

Left: A sedia tenaglia made in Italy from beechwood. It has a height of 80 cm, a depth of 48.8 cm and a width of 51.3 cm. The seating height is 47 cm (yes, similar to the chair above). The chair has 6 legs and decorated legs and back plate. The chair is also from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA, USA. Right: This sedia tenaglia from the Morando Bolognini Museum, Sant'Angelo Lodigiano, Italy dates from 1490-1510. The sizes of this chair are: height 84 cm, width 37 cm and depth 29 cm. This chair has only 5 legs and misses the two outer seating rails.

A 16th century sedia tenaglia  from Burg Kreuzenstern near Vienna, Austria in seating and folded position. The chair has 6 legs and is made from beech, 80 cm high, 45 cm wide and 43 cm deep. Image from the book Mobel Europas I -Romanik - Gotik by G. Windisch-Graetz.

Left: Decorated folding chair with 6 legs from Tuscany. There is a bend  of the legs at the seating level. Collection Nella Longari, Milan, Italy. Right: Chair originating from Saluzzo, end of the 15th century. Italian private collection. Both images scanned from the book 'Il quattrocento - Mobili - Arti decorative - Costume' .