Monday, 19 April 2021

Some more engravings of late medieval Tiroler furniture

In this post I would like to show some more furniture pieces from the plates in the books 'Die Zimmergotik in Deutsch Tirol' by Franz Paukert. As previously mentioned, due to my scanner size limit each plate consists of two scans that are 'glued' together.


The bench (with turnable backrest) and the chest, two works of Tyrolean joinery that are already being sought out of the country, are shown with the use of  dimensional sketches and photographs made available to the publisher by Mr. Ueberbacher from Bolzano, Italy.

Canopy bed from the Castello Principesco, or Landfurstliche Burg, Merano, Italy.


These two folding chairs are in the Figdor collection in Vienna. One of them (Figure A), coming from Bozen, shows the old, quilted leather seat belt and its shape is reminiscent of the faldistorium of the women's monastery on the Nonnberg near Salzburg. The armchair of Figure B, like the previous one, has crossed legs but with partially suspected monkey- and crab-like knobs and comes from St. Michael in Eppau. (The Figdor collection was auctioned in the early 20th century; the auction catalogues can still be found in second hand book stores)

 

On the other hand, the design of this cabinet does not differ insignificantly from the usual furniture shapes. The straight end of the upper frieze, the framing of the door wing and the somewhat clumsy ornamentation characterize the piece as a late form of medieval art. 

Cabinet in the possession of  Mr. J. Strasser in Merano. In terms of its origin, this piece of furniture is one of the few surviving pieces of its kind. A real Tyrolean work and despite its relatively later origins unaffected by the imitation of architectural details that are so popular elsewhere, it is evidence of the fact that the Tyrolean carpentry did not tend to indulge in miniature replicas of the facade construction, but rather focused on healthy construction, and flat cuts, engraving, tracery carved into the wooden base and moderate painting are the only means to which this cabinet owes its very handsome appearance. The upper and lower parts of the cabinet are firmly connected, and the sides are completely smooth. Metal bars never seem to have been there at the door. Merano, Italy.

 

Noteworthy is the simplest possible treatment of the tracery fillings in the wash basin: flat cuts with a coloured background, as well as the extremely simple construction of the box, which is common to almost all of this type of Tyrolean Gothic furniture; Jointed boxes with decorative strips placed in front of them on jointed feet and finally the almost continuous painting of the ornaments or at least the flat base of the carved parts. Castello Principesco, or Landfurstliche Burg, Merano, Italy. 

 

A chest owned by the bookstore owner F. Plant in Merano. In spite of its extremely simple structure and in spite of its decoration reminiscent of the Romanesque period, it was found to be of a rather late origin and proof that the Tyrolean gothic art did not reluctantly fall back on very early roots. The lid of the cest is not connected to the other part of the chest by iron hinges, but by wooden pegs which function as axes of rotation, and go through the lateral gripping strips and the sides of the chest.

Among the increase in the number of furniture pieces of the Landfurstliche Burg in Merano over the last few years, the furniture shown in whole or in part on the plates above and below is the most important. The legs of the chests belong to the box, which differs little from the already known pieces of a similar kind and only in the ornaments and the exposition of the fields on the front.

 

Monday, 5 April 2021

A late medieval woodwork book


Recently I bought an antique set of seven 'books' on 'Die Zimmergotik in Deutsch Tirol [late medieval woodwork in Tirol] by Franz Paukert. They were published between 1890 to 1903 and contain many superb engravings on the late medieval woodwork and furniture from Italian and Austrian Tirol. Each of the books contain 32 engraved plates of around A3 size and a similar sized booklet of a few pages containing the descriptions. The engravings are printed in a reddish-brown colour, black, and even some are printed in green ink. My set of books is not complete, a few plates are missing, and some others are damaged, but this caused the lot to be at an affordable price. What makes this book so interesting is that the engravings are very detailed, some engravings focus even on details of the construction. Furthermore, the engravings show a rule, so you actually have the dimensions of the woodwork.


 The seven books contain 32 loose printed engravings and a thin booklet with the descriptions.

Though many plates show furniture pieces, most of the plates concern other carved woodwork, like doors, wooden panelling, ceilings, etc. Also the ironwork on the woodwork is focussed on several plates: hinges, locks, door knockers. Also a few designs of medieval wall drawings are shown. To give you an idea of the furniture included in the book, some of the plates are given below with their original (translated) comments.  As my scanner has an A4 limit, each plate consists of two scans are 'glued' together.


Folding chairs from Campan Castle (Bressanone, Italy) and Bolzano (Italy). Movable gothic seating has hardly come across us in Tyrol. The depicted examples present a form that has hardly been used at least in the German part of the country. Its form has been borrowed from the late Gothic stock of Italian decorative art. Both armchairs are made of beech wood and almost only differ from one another in the cross-section of the ribs.

Despite the extremely heavy shapes, this object is not uninteresting because of its structure. The basic ornaments of the crenellated canopy are very lively in the drawing and emphasized in colour. Burg Reifenstein, Campo di Trens, Italy.

The whole lattice, consisting of four rectangular parts with a common pointed arch, is mainly formed of openwork tracery. The fillings are red, yellow or blue, while the carved frames are painted green. Burg Reifenstein, Campo di Trens, Italy.

Tratzberg also conveyed a gothic light woman - a unique item for this country - to the present. The engravings reproduce the colour-coded model in front and side views to such an extent that the composition clearly can be recognized. Schloss Tratzberg, Jenbach, Austria.

In this piece we encounter a very attractive achievement of gothic small art. The wood of the stone pine, which is used almost everywhere in Tyrol, served as material for the work. The background of the freely treated ornaments as well as that underlaid with the tracery fillings is blue. All of the rods of the epiglottis resemble cords made of dark and light wires. It's just a shame that the work suffered more than it gained from a restoration that was carried out decades ago. A newer, much too low base and completely nonsensical, admittedly neglected elements on the crenellated wreath today spoil the impression of the whole cabinet.

Chair from Tirol castle near Merano (Italy). In his art history of Tyrol and Vorarlberg, Atz describes this piece of furniture as one of the oldest chairs in the country. At present, the chair shown has a praying desk in front, which, on closer inspection, reveals itself to be a new addition. The ornament on the rear wall of the chair is engraved, the decoration on the crown is flat-cut. The two side walls show different contours. The only thing to note about the construction of the furniture, which can be seen in full from the drawing, is that the seat can be uplifted.

The table comes from Burgeis in the upper Vintschgau and has only recently been found in the collection of the Merano Museum Association, along with several wood carvings and carpentry work of religious origin. It is well preserved and only supplemented in some places. 

Chest from the collection of the antiquarian Alois Ueberbacher in Bolzano, Italy. The chest is of particular interest, taken from the daily changing material of its owner: the one due to the charm of the varied decoration, this one due to the way the tracery is treated. 

Of what the Fugger room holds in the form of movable household items, one is easily identified as a cabinet holding a wash basin.Schloss Trazberg, Jenbach, Austria.

Sunday, 14 February 2021

Meddling with madder - part 2

 The results of the dilution test after 24 hours in the madder solution.

With the first experiment on colouring antler with madder done, the basic recipe was elucidated. The next step was to determine which strength of solution led to which red colour strength. To do this a set dilutions was made. So, to recapitulate, the basic recipe was:

  • Pre-soaking antler for 1 hour in water
  • Make madder solution with 4 gram sodium in 400 ml water (a 1% solution) + 5% WOF madder extract for 1 hour at 60 degrees Celsius
  • Antler for 2 hours in madder solution at 60 degrees Celsius
  • Cool down for 24 hours in madder solution
  • Rinse with cold water

Dilution test

For the dilution test a set of five different solutions was made. The basic madder solution was diluted with a 60 degrees Celcius 1% sodium solution in 5 different glass jars:

  • 100%  = 200 ml basic madder solution
  • 50%  = 100 ml basic madder solution + 100 ml sodium solution
  • 30%  = 60 ml basic madder solution + 140 ml sodium solution
  • 20%  = 40 ml basic madder solution + 160 ml sodium solution
  • 10%  = 20 ml basic madder solution + 180 ml sodium solution

The results of the dilution test directly after 2 hours at 60 degrees C. The (quarter) antler pieces are at the back, while the elongated bone pieces are at the front.

As I also had some (cow) bone pieces leftover from making soup, these were added as well to the test. The antler and bone responded differently to the dilution test. The bone produced a much lighter shade of red than the antler. This could be due to the fact that the bone was still 'fatty', and thus less able to absorb the madder. Or it might be that (cow) bone is less able to absorb the madder than antler. The 50% solution looked most agreeable to me, having a full red colour and not being too dark red. This solution was chosen for the production of the coloured tablemen.

Finalisation

The results of the actual colouring of the tablemen were not as straightforward as thought. The coloured antler game pieces had different shades of red, giving it a spotted appearance. Also, a wet solution brings out the fibres (just like wood), giving the game piece a slightly rough texture. Especially, the porous inside of the antler produces the most 'rough' texture and needs sanding to make it smooth again. The first game piece was sanded to much, and blank bits appeared. Therefore, I repeated the colouring procedure on the same game pieces in order to darken and recolour the light coloured spots. The result was that the game pieces were now a dark red colour.

 
 When you saw the test pieces in half you can see that the madder colour consists only of a small layer on the bone and antler. only on the porous part it invades further into the tissue.
 
 
The wet tablemen showing a spotty colouring.

When the tablemen were dry, the porous parts were carefully sanded with a 320 grid sanding paper, after which the complete gaming piece was polished with a cotton polishing wheel. Afterwards the piece was oiled with walnut oil, just as it was described in the 12th century treatise by Theophilus. 

 
The 100% and 50% madder solution test pieces with walnut oil.
 
 
Some of the madder coloured and uncoloured antler tablemen after the walnut oil finish.