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.