Friday 29 April 2016

Another medieval cradle in Musee de Cluny

Remember the medieval Christmas cradle from the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam? There happened to be another medieval Christmas crib in the Musee de Cluny in Paris, France, which Anne and I visited last month. Both cradles look strikingly similar, but the one from Cluny is more complete. It carries three bells underneath the cradle and also the original box in which the cradle was stored and carried has survived.

All the features of the Amsterdam cradle are here as well: the pinnacles, the archway, the lions, the tableau on top of the lions and the openwork tracery panels of the crib. According to the descriptions the cradle was made around 1500 in Belgium, likely Brussels. It is made of oak and walnut, and used to be painted and gilded.

The cradle itself with the openwork tracery panels.
Two photos of the bottom openwork tracery panels. The panels slightly fold inside, forming a kind of alcove.

Three crotal-like bells are hanging underneath the cradle. They would make a tingling sound if the cradle is swung.

One of the four lions supporting the cradle.

The original red painted box in which the cradle was stored with two coats of arms (male and female). 
The box is locked with a simple bended pin.

The backside shows the simplicity of the construction: just (worm-eaten) wooden planks and nails. 

Left: The side of the box. Right: The top with a handle to carry the box.

Thursday 28 April 2016

A visit to the Rijksmuseum: small furniture

This is the second post of  my visit to the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands and the medieval furniture in it. The larger pieces were already dealt with in a previous post, this one will have some (religious) small furniture.

The official photo from the Rijksmuseum, inventory nr. BK-1958-40. The portable altar is made from oak and has a height of 23.3 cm and a width of 14.5 cm (in a closed state).

I first start with a small portable altar, made between 1525-1540 by an unkown artist. Shrines and altars are often not seen as 'furniture'  as they are mainly found in churches. This altar, however, is for private devotion either at home or when travelling.  Closed, the altar is rounded from above and has a greyish-green colour without further decoration. Open, the main niche of the altar presents an image of ‘Christ as the Man of Sorrows’ standing in his tomb and pointing at his wounds caused by his crucifixion. This helped the believer to identify with Christ’s suffering. On the left side of the tomb are three ointment pots (arabelli) and on the right are three dice. On the background is the cross with a nail (the other one missing), the spear and a stick with a sponge. Each of the half-niches contain an angel standing on a pedestal. The left angel presumably holds the remnants of a lily, the right angel the remains of a sword. The edges of the inner side are decorated with rosettes and in the main niche pearls.

The backside of the altar is painted in a dark greyish-green colour. The red colour are the places where the green colour has worn off.

The hinges are set on the outside of the side of the altar and the door; two for each door. What is special about these hinges is that the two are connected to each other with a very long pin (right photo).

 The front of the portable altar.

Next are two ivory caskets or reliquary boxes with (gilded) silver bands, hinges, lock and grip. These caskets were very popular during high medieval times and often richly carved. The centre of production was in Sicily, were Arabic craftsmen were employed to make them.When, due to religious wars, the import of ivory dried, the production of these caskets moved to other countries, using bone as substitution. These caskets are late medieval, when ivory became available again. The ivory is undecorated, the decoration solely comes from its metalwork. 

The official photo from the Rijksmuseum, inventory nr. BK-NM-625. This reliquarium once belonged to the Chapter of Oudmunster in Utrecht, the Netherlands, but was made in France around 1500. 15.2 cm height, 20.7 cm length and 13.5 cm width. The casket rest on four gilded seated lions. The silver fittings end in gilded lilies. The handle ends on both sides in a fools head. 

The front and the back of the casket.

The lock also has four lilies on the corner.

Casket (inventory nr. BK-NM-9373) dates from 1400-1425 and was constructed in Northwest Europe. height 5.4 cm, length 15.4 cm and width 8.5 cm. The silver fittings end in lilies.

The front and back of the casket.

Also a reliquary, is the bust of one of the virgins that went along with St. Ursula to Cologne (Germany) to be massacred. As there were many martyred virgins (11,000!) accompanying St. Ursula, these busts are 'ubiquitously' found. The treasury of the cathedral of Cologne has a huge collection of these busts (with their relics), but there is one as well in the Rijksmuseum (without the relic). The bust is made from walnut with a polychrome painted layer on linen. Made around 1325-1350.

The official photo from the Rijksmuseum (Inventory nr. BK-NM-11666). The bust is 26.6 cm high.

 The heart is formed by a nice four-pass. The relic could be seen through this hole.

 At the back is an opening, you can see that there is a plateau where the actual relic can be placed.

 She looks more smiling on my photos than on the official one. I guess she likes me.

Of course the Rijksmuseum has a much larger collection of medieval furniture. Not everything is on display. For instance, the high chair shown at the Engelanderholt post is in the depot.

Monday 25 April 2016

Engelanderholt report presentation

Thursday 14 April was a big day for Bram and me: the report of the Engelanderholt project from was presented to the Geldersche Kastelen and Landschappen, Staatsbosbeheer and a group of private forest plot owners who all happened to have an area within the Engelanderholt. They were all very content with the report, for which we researched and wrote the chapter on the construction of the klaarbank.

The representative of the province Gelderland receives a report.

The report 'The hidden history of the Engelanderholt' [in Dutch] and Chapter 11 written by us. The report is available as SAGA (section archaeology of the city Apeldoorn) volume 8 (ISSN 2214-0664).

 One of the 13 prehistoric grave hills on the Engelanderholt.

A lot of volunteers helped uncovering the history and facts of this area, and perhaps the greatest compliment was that the volunteers had discovered more than professionals would have done. The klaarbank at the Herenhul was not the only historic place in the Engelanderholt. There were also some stone age grave hills, remnants of iron delving and production, a cold war watchtower, a private airfield used by the late prince Bernhard, and, quite unexpectedly, an arboretum. During the late 19th and early 20th century it had been a fashion among wealthy landowners to collect tree species in an arboretum. This arboretum was set up by Dr. Jan Ooster in the early 20th century as a testing ground and nursery for exotic tree species. A lot of the originally planted trees have disappeared, but there are still some peculiar trees left, such as the Pignut Hickory (Carya glabra), the Japanese Zelkova (Zelkova serrata), the Oriental (Caucasus) Beech (Fagus orientalis), the Tatar Maple (Acer tataricum) and the Cucumber Magnolia (Magnolia acuminata). The Gelderse Kastelen and Landschappen are now planning to restore the arboretum and eventually disclose it for the public.

Bram at the hidden arboretum.

Left: A cucumber magnolia (Magnolia acuminata). Right: the Oriental beech (Fagus orientalis).

There was a small excursion to the Engelanderholt after the presentation. For me (Marijn) this was the first time I visited the site. We also went to the stone indication the point of the klaarbank. This is now situated directly next to the motorway A2; also in medieval (and earlier) times this was a 'highly' trafficked road.

 A klaarbank is at a small hill overlooking the surrounding area. Directly behind the trees is the motorway .

The megalith marking the place of the klaarbank. behind the trees you can see a truck.