Saturday, February 28, 2009

Help! Illumination mistery

Does anyone know this image and where it comes from?
Any hints would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
Mistery solved:

Illumination from the "Trojanischen Krieg"
Date: 1441
Manuscript: HS 998
Collection Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Germany

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Frilled veils - Experiment 1

I am working on a new series of experiments with frills.
Here is n°1.

fabric = bleached linen
thread count = 26x21 / cm²
with of fabric = 8 cm
length of fabric = 3 x 70 cm
length of final sample = 22 cm + 4 cm fabric left over
pleats = 6 cm wide

The example is a chimney/hearth console from Bruges, in the collection of the Gruuthuse Museum. It is dated to the late 14th century.
Next to it is the first sample I did. I am not completely satisfied with the result yet. The two outer rows of frills do not stay in place as they should.

Above are some other examples of frilled veils from the Low Countries with box-pleats. The three on the top row are also in the collection of the Gruuthuse Museum in Bruges, on the bottom row the one on the left and the right are currently in the collection of the STAM museum. All date from the last quarter of the 14th century.

Above are two photo's of the progress.
More detailed descriptions of all the experiments will be in my final thesis.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


1. Sint-Michielskerk, Gent, Belgium - 13th century
2. Old townhall, Mechelen, Belgium - late 14th century
3. Village church, Eine, Belgium - 13th century
4. Village church, Eine, Belgium - 13th century

Does someone have a clue what these figures with bits in their mouths stand for? In the case of the male heads I can imagine it might have to do something with the legend of Aristoteles and Phyllis (see also fig. 2).

Aristotle, the Greek philosopher and tutor of Alexander the Great, allowed himself to be humiliated by the seductive Phyllis, Alexander's favorite courtesan, as a lesson to the young ruler, who had succumbed to her wiles and neglected the affairs of state. Encouraging Alexander to witness his folly, Aristotle explained that if he, an old man, could be so easily deceived, the potential consequences for a young man were even more perilous.
Source here.

However, I can not see why women would also be depicted this way and what the meaning is that is hidden behind it.
Any information on this matter would be greatly appreciated!
Thank you.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Women's caps

Prefix: A short version of this post is also available in Dutch. An extensive article on medieval women's caps and the cap of St. Birgitta (a Swedisch saint of the 14th century) is to be found in: Dahl, C.L. & I. Sturtewagen, 2008, The Cap of St. Birgitta, Medieval Clothing and Textiles vol. IV, pp. 99-129.

1. Maciejowski Bible

White fabric caps can relatively often bee seen on women in medieval art from the 13th to 15th centuries. Examples are known from Italy, France, The Low Countries, Scandinavia, ... These images can teach us much about how the caps were constructed and how they were worn. Fig. 3 in particluar is very interesting because we can see the ties are not two seperate ribbons, but form a loop. On fig. 4 a seam on the back of the cap is clearly visible.

2. Tacuinum Sanitatis, c.1390, Paris, BNF, MS. Lat. Acq. 1673, fol. 11r.
3. Les Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles, Frankrijk, c.1475-1500, Glasgow University,
MS Hunter 252, fol. 186r.
4. Liturgische kalender uit Kamerijk, 1275-1300, Den Haag, KB, 76 J 18, fol. 211v.

Also written sources give information about women's caps. The word that is regularly used in Dutch witten sources is 'huve' or 'huvete'. The word 'huve' is not exclusively used for female headgear, but also for men's. For a more detailed discussion about the terminology of women's caps see Dahl, C.L. & I. Sturtewagen, 2008, The Cap of St. Birgitta, Medieval Clothing and Textiles vol. IV, pp. 99-129.

Item off twe vrouwespersonen sick onder een ander dat huvete afftogen kijflicken, dat is vijff marck, Westerw. Landr. 53, 3 (Source: Middelnederlandsch Woordenboek).
TRANSLATION: About two women who quarreled and ripped each others 'huvete' [= cap] away, that makes five 'marck' [=monetary unit].
Van huven, die sy voir mire vrouwen gecoft hadde, Oorl. v. Albr. 308 (Source: Middelnederlandsch Woordenboek).
TRANSLATION: Of 'huven' [=caps], that she had bought for my lady.
Other written sources (eg. the ca. 1370 Bruges Livre des Métiers) tell us that huves could be made in silk or in linen and that they were often worn underneath a veil, which makes total sense. This may be the cause of the fact that women's caps are much more rare in iconographic sources than the well known male coifs. However this does not necessarily mean that they were worn less regularly. Also the caps for a good base for pinning upper veils to, and they are a less labour intensive alternative to knotted silk hairnets.

5. The cap of Saint Birgitte in the Birgittine Convent in Uden, photo's by Isis Sturtewagen.
An original medieval cap (dating between the 13th and 16th centuries) is in the posession of the Birgittine Convent in Uden, The Netherlands. This cap is believed to have been Saint Birgitta's of Sweden and is kept as a relic. On this original the ties were broken, so it is not completely clear wether it were two seperate ties of one loop similar to the cap in fig. 4 however it is very probable they formed a loop. This is also how the cap was restored during the conservation in the ealry 1970's.

6. Arrangement of the cap, Medieval clothings and textiles vol. 4. Fig 6.11 p. 122

The women's caps could have been worn in different ways, depending on how long the loop was en how many times it could be wrapped around the head. The method above is the same as we can see in the Maciejowski Bible and Tacuinum Sanitatis.

7. Reconstruction of the cap of Saint Birgitta by Isis Sturtewagen (nevermind the modern clothing)
Above is my own attempt on making a women's cap. It is made out of linen and lacks the emroidery that was found on the cap of Saint Birgitte. I plan on making a silk 'huve' somewhere in the future which will have all the embroidery applied to it.
I showed you a couple of reconstructions of the cap in a previous post on this blog. Catharina Oksen (from the Middelaldercentret in Denmark) has also made a lovely reconstruction (text in Danish).

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