Monday 27 July 2015

Medieval clothing from Vienna part I

I finally had some time to arrange the photos I took last year during my visit of Vienna. Several museums did have some display of medieval clothing; either the real stuff or on paintings and frescos. The first museum I visited was the Hofjagd und Rüstkammer. In this place many suits of armour are shown. One of the largest room with armour also showed one gigantic family tree of the Habsburger rulers, which was painted in 1497 by Konrad Doll from Freiburg. The painted lords and ladies (to me it was not very clear who was who) were all dressed in the luxurious style of the late medieval period with their respective hairstyles. I tried to make some photos of the couples, but this was difficult to do without using flash-light and considering the distances to the painting. Below are some of the members (with the heraldic red/white/red shield) of the Habsburg family tree.

These three photos made by Andreas Praefcke (wikimedia commons) give an overview of the enormous painting of the family tree.

The female wears a intricate necklace and a belt-type reminiscent of the male knightly belt of the late fourteenth century. The man wears a beautifully embroidered gown.
Some of the men have married twice. The females have some open armwork, showing the underlying dress. 

The female on the right has a pointed hennin.

 Or some females have two husbands.

Some men even have three wives. The middle one (wearing two templers or horns) does not look that happy.

I like the style of this man's gown.

Is this woman using a muff to warm her hands or has she hidden her hands into her sleeves?

This woman wears a fashionable long roll added to her horned head-dress.

She does not have a head-dress at all! Her hair is braided around her forehead.
Her gown has puffed-shoulders.

 Not all family members are married (loose hair), such as the woman on the right.

This pair seems more clothed for winter with a cloak and fur coverings. The hares suggest spring is coming.

 These two watching the pigeon have peculiar headdresses. Her white gown has a high neck.

The man looks quite surly.

Though this man has a quite colour-full gown, he does not seem to like it. Do the gold chains over his body mean that he feels bound by the marriage contract she holds? She wears a caul with lattice and pearls work as a head-dress.

Sunday 19 July 2015

Saffron bread

This weekend we were again in Castle Hernen and I took the opportunity to test several new recipes. The dishes were only made for our lunch and the following afternoon. The castle closes at 17:00 and there is not a good place to prepare dinner. Therefore, the new recipes had to be prepared beforehand at home. One of the new recipes which tasted (and looked) very well was Saffron Bread. The recipe came from 'Das Mittelalter Kochbuch' of Hannele Klementtilä. This book is a German translation of an English translation of a Finnish book. To make it more complicated, the recipe was taken by the author from a French medieval cookbook 'Gastronomie du Moyen Age' by Josy Marty-Dufaut. She (hopefully) took the recipe from a medieval source. Anyway, this sweet bread tastes good. You can describe it as something between cake and brioche.

 The just baked Saffron Bread.

Saffron was a luxury spice during medieval times and held in high esteem by the aristocracy. During the plague, the price for saffron was 45 times as high as today’s premium price. Nowadays, it still is a luxury spice; the highest quality yields 25,000 Euro/kg (the gold price is 45,000 Euro/kg). Saffron has a subtle aroma and taste, and colours your food with a golden colour (no wonder why it was appreciated by the nobility). Luckily, you only need a very little amount for your dish (and we were even more lucky with friends giving us some small boxes of it).

Two boxes of saffron. Some pepper kernels are given for size comparison. 

Saffron Bread

Ingredients (for two loafs)
  • 500 g fine flour
  • 250 ml warm water
  • 17 gram yeast ( instead I used 2 sachets dry yeast dissolved for some time in handwarm applejuice with a bit of salt)
  • 90 gram cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 1.5 eggs (or 1 medium and 1 small egg)
  • some saffron threads

Left: the loafs resting under a sheet of household plastic in a sunny spot of the house. Right: the marble tile in the oven with the saffron bread loafs.

Add the yeast to the warm water and add the saffron, salt, olive oil, eggs and flour to it. Knead it to a dough and let it rest for around one hour. Preheat the oven at 200 degrees. We placed a marble tile on the lowest rack in our oven and preheated it for at least half an hour - the bread will then have a crust similarity comparable to the medieval stone oven (the marble tile is also ideal for pizza). Divide the dough into two loafs and let them rest for a while. Place the loafs in the oven and bake it for 15 minutes, until the crust is lightly browned. When cut, the bread has a marvellously golden colour.

The baked saffron bread.

Some slices of the saffron bread. You can see the nice golden colour of the inside of the loaf.

Wednesday 15 July 2015

Making a sedia tenaglia - Part 3: completing the chair

This post is the third and final part of the story of making a sedia tenaglia. The two previous parts can be found here and here. The plan of the sedia tenaglia can be found below.

The plan of the sedia tenaglia. Note that the angle is set at 55 degrees, and this angle also is used for the seating rails. The dotted line left indicates the size of the steam-bending jig. Left is a frontal view, which distorts the actual length of the rails. The dotted horizontal line is the place of the dowel in the centre of the X. The proposed decoration on the head board was not carved as the chair needed to fit with the other folding chairs.

The bended backrest rails were now cut to length. The bending made it difficult to use a normal bench-hook as the rail refused to lay flat. A piece of double-sided tape on the bench-hook kept the rail stable enough to be sawn.

Left:  The bench-hook adjusted for sawing the bended rail with a piece of double sided tape. Right: The weight at the bended end of the rail pulls it upwards. The piece of sticky tape keeps it down on the bench-hook.

All the other rails for the seating and the legs were now cut and planed to have the same thickness of 2 cm as the bended backrest rail. The ends of the seating rails were having an angle of 55 degrees. All the rails now needed to have their edges (of the long sides) chamfered. This was done with help of a router table. For the straight rails this was quite easy as they could stably rest against the fence of the router. For the bended backrest rails this was not possible, as the fence interfered with the routing process and needed to be removed. Therefore, these rails had to be stabilized differently. This was solved by adding two pieces of extra wood with a C-clamp at the edges of the rails. 

Left: Chamfering the straight rails with the router with help of the router fence. Right: The bended rail is stabilized by clamping two extra wooden blocks at the edges.

After that the holes for the dowels were drilled in each rail. A jig was made for the drill press to be sure the holes were drilled at exactly the same place in each rail (otherwise you cannot construct and fold the chair). Also the drilled holes were rounded of using a cross-hole countersink bit.

Left: The drill jig for the rails of the sedia tenaglia. The rails just have to be inserted and clamped. The stop at the end ensures that the hole is drilled at exactly the same place. Right: The holes for the dowel are rounded with a cross-hole countersink bit. No clamping is needed here, the bit centres itself.

Left: All the seating rails connected by the middle dowel rod. Right: This photo nicely displays the difference in placement of the "X" between the sedia tenaglia and a normal X-chair. Both chairs have the same seating height and are in the same seating position. Not that only four (front)legs are used. The bended rails with the backrest were not yet drilled.

When all rails were drilled the chair was test-constructed. Where needed the rails of the seating and the front legs were adjusted using a belt sander in order to get a flat seating level.

Two views of the chair. You can see on the right photo that one of the rails of the backrest has bended slightly less. However, when the top board of the chair is added, it will automatically be forced to the same bending angle as the other rails. The dowel rods have a thickness of 10 mm.

An 55 degree jig is used to adjust the seating rails on the belt sander.

The final flat seating of the sedia tenaglia.

Now the top board and the rails of the feet had to be added to the chair. A row of mortise and tenon joints was used, which were fixed by two (feet) or three (head) wooden dowels. The tenons were sawn and rounded off with a file. This was done because I made the mortises with help of the drill press - thus producing a rounded mortise - and rounding a tenon was less work than squaring the mortises. A difference nobody will notice looking at the chair.

The sawn square tenon and the filed round tenon.

A set of finished tenons.

Drilling the mortise in the top board of the sedia tenaglia. The jig ensures the holes are placed correctly in the middle. The board can slide within the jig.

 Left: The same type of construction was used for the feet rails. Right: The front and back feet rails have a different number of mortises.

After drilling the mortises were cleaned with a chisel.

The feet rails now were having the same angle (55 degrees) as the legs of the chair, meaning they were standing on one point. To have a larger contact area with the ground, the feet rails were planed flat. A spirit level was used to check if both rails were equally planed. After that, the caps were glued onto the dowel rods. Finally, the chair was finished with a linseed oil coating.

The chair was fastened with the seating to the workbench with a clamp; another clamp was used to fix all the rails together. An old wooden Stanley Bailey no. 5 was used to flatten the feet rails.

The finished sedia tenaglia in front of the fireplace at Castle Hernen, the Netherlands.