Tuesday 29 November 2011

A visit to medieval Köln

Last weekend we were in Köln, Germany to relax and see some medieval furniture and objects in several of the many musea. First we went to the Museum Schnütgen, which is specialised in medieval (religious) art. A nice glassstained image of Saint Thomas from 1350 can be found in the collection. The museum now has a special exhibition called 'Glanz und grösse des Mittelalters' (4 November 2011 - 26 February 2012). It contains many top pieces from musea around the world, which are related to medieval Cologne. One of the pieces is the painting 'love magic' or 'Liebeszauber' by an unknown master from Cologne of around 1470. I had in mind to use an image of this painting to illustrate the use of a triangular turned chair as a side table, but I could not find it in my books at that time. And here it was, the original, smaller than I thought, approximately the size of A4 or letter. The painting shows other types of furniture as well.

'Liebeszauber', Oil on red beech, around 1470, 23.9 x 18 cm. Normally on display in the Museum der bildende Kunste, Leipzig, Germany. 

The museum Schnütgen does have a nice bookshop, were I bought the exhibition catalogue, but also a small booklet called "100 Schatze mittelalterliche Künst" (100 treasures of medieval art), which contains a selection of medieval objects in churches and musea in Nord-Rhein-Westfalen (a German region next to the Netherlands). This booklet held a surprising piece of medieval furniture: a painted and turned chair, used as seat of authority by the abbess of the Augustiner cloister St. Walburgis, near Soest. This type of chair is typically found in the 11th and 12th century, but this particular example dates from the 15th century and is made of oak.

15th century turned chair of the St. Walburgisstift, Soest, Germany.
Oak, on the back are the arms of the duke of Kleve.

Another interesting item in the booklet is an almoniere, or alms purse from the Stiftsmuseum of the St. Viktor Dom in Xanten. The purse is embroidered in silk and gold on linen and shows three musicians and dates of around 1350. 

The almoniere of the St. Viktor Dom in Xanten, 1350.

Our next visit was the Museum fur angewandte Künst (museum of applied arts). This museum has a large collection of medieval items, including furniture, jewellery, ceramics and glass. They only have their best pieces on display, but the actual collection is much larger. You need the catalogues of the different object types to discover the rest. The MAKK allows you to take photographs - without flash-light, so some next post will feature the medieval furniture in this museum. There is one type of furniture of which there are many 14th century examples on display, and which I think is an underrated piece of medieval furniture: the coffret or small casket, or in German called 'Minnekastchen'. These are small highly decorated caskets for holding documents or a few books.

Two Minnekastchen from the 14th century in the Museum fur angewandte Kunst, Cologne, Germany.

A visit to the Dom of Köln and the Schatzkammer concluded our tour of medieval Cologne.

Monday 21 November 2011

Sources: books page update

The sources: books additional page of this blog, which you can find here, has been updated and enlarged with a new section on medieval jewellery books.

Four rings from the Chalcis treasure dating from 13th-15th century. The Chalcis treasure was buried 
in 1470 in Chalcis, Greece - a Venetian trading post - to save them from the Ottoman Turks. 
The rings are now at the British Museum, London, UK. 
Image from the book 'Intelligible beauty'  (2010) edited by Chris Entwistle and Noël Adams