About This Blog

My current research obsession is centered around purses and pouches from the European Middle Ages, and the accompanying hardware and passementerie. It is my hope to not only study extant items but also learn via reconstructive experiments; these will be limited for the most part to the textile components, however in the future I hope to explore the production of the metal frames.

31 August 2008

St Agnes of Bohemia, continued

Quick post tonight, about the other noteable purse representations in the convent-cum-museum:

Epitaph with the Assumption and Donors by Hans Pleydenwurff (Nürnberg, ca. 1470): a slim rectangular leather purse, suspended from (and attached directly to) the belt via a pair of chains. Looks like the attachment points at the belt were shaped like spades, and the attachment points on the top face of the purse were shaped like spades. I think I'm reading too much into it already by identifying them as such and such shapes, but honestly.. that's what they looked like. There was also some sort of plaque in the middle of the flap.. something you'd assume, on a modern purse, would conceal a snap-closure behind it. Again, I'm reading into it from a much too modern a perspective. But, haven't not seen any extant examples of this type, I don't know else how to describe it.

Another tidbit about this piece of art, in general, was the paternoster carried by the donor's wife (?). I wish I had a picture for Chris Laning at Paternosters, although maybe nothing she's never seen before, there was a nice single marker bead ("ave"? I think I meant gaud) that looked like a sphere of silver encrusted with tiny gems.

In another piece by Hans Pleydenwurff, the Beheading of St Barbara, there was a nice frame purse; black with a gold frame.. no tassles, but there were several knopfs that seemed to be decorated with pearls. No sketch of this can do it justice, I just really need to get permission to take a picture.

Lastly, St Christopher with the Infant Jesus (Sv Kryštof s Ježískem)... a wooden relief, by an unknown Bohemian artist ca. 1500-1510, with what Goubitz referrs to as a "harp frame" purse. When I'm reunited with my copy of the book I'll recheck this (otherwise back me up or correct me), but I seem to recall that he categorized this "type" soley on examples in art, since he had never seen an extant example. It is frustrating, because it's really difficult to figure out how they work without being able to hold one, or at least see one in the flesh.

P.S. Regarding the taxonomy Goubitz established: I love K. Larsdatter's site, particularly the purse page. However, I don't think I completely agree with some of the examples she's listed under the "harp frame" type. Of course, again due to the fact that these examples are all artistic representations, it can get a bit subjective. So that's just me :-)

That's all for now!

25 August 2008

Ask, and ye shall recieve; Part II

Here's a small - but not terrible - view of the Visitation scene from the St James Altarpiece (mentioned in the St Agnes of Bohemia post).

Ask, and ye shall recieve..

..albeit in poor resolution.

Here's a picture of the Třeboň Altarpiece scene I mentioned in my last post. You can barely make out the buckled strap since the image is so grainy, but it's better than nothing. I will still attempt to get either a drawing, or a much better photograph posted before long.

24 August 2008

A visit to the St Agnes of Bohemia Convent..

..wherein resides an impressive collection of medieval art. There, I had the chance to see - quite possibly - more wood-and-polychrome Madonnas With Child than I would ever expect to find under one roof.

Fortunately for me (as, let's face it, M.W.C.s are not really my medieval cup o' tea) there were some pieces of art that had purses in them! Good thing I brought my little notebook. I wish that photography was allowed (even though I don't have my camera, I could steal someone else's next time.. but it's a moot point) so I could share some pictures, but alas. At the very least, I'll try to make some drawings based on my notes and in-museum sketches, but don't hold your breath.

First off, a nice clear example of a ring-frame purse in the Entombment (Kladení Krista do hrobu) scene of the Třeboň Altarpiece (Oltář třeboňský) by [surprise!] the Master of the Třeboň Altarpiece (Mistr Třeboňského oltáře), dated at around 1380-1385. The purse is worn by one of two men who are lowering Christ's body into the tomb, while the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene(?), and a few other haloed persons* watch. It's undecorated, and I can only assume that it would've been executed in leather. What drew me to it was the way it's attached to the man's belt (even though I can't really see a belt at all.. there's a fold in his tunic, I'll have to assume he's got a belt under there somewhere). Around a tertiary loop on the frame** is wound a small leather strap, complete with buckle. The strap also shows a few extra belt holes as well. Why? Is the ability to adjust your purse by a few centimeters closer or further from your midsection all that necessary? Could it be that the gentleman in question had only a leftover bit of belt/garter/etc strap to which he could fasten purse to belt, or was the strap "part" of the purse itself? I have no idea; all I know is I haven't yet seen many extant examples of fastening devices included with the purse.

In another painted panel, the Visitation (Navštívení Panny Marie) scene of the St James Altarpiece (Oltář svatojakubský) by the workshop of the Master of the Rajhrad Altarpiece (Mistr Rajhradského oltáře), dated around 1430, St Elizabeth is wearing a purse very similar in design to this French purse: LACMA obj. M.91.165. St Elizabeth's, however, has a main knopf/tassle on the base of the purse, and one on each of the two drawstrings (does that French purse have 3 drawstrings??). Also, I noticed that there was some sort of donut-shaped bead right about the opening. I was curious as to whether or not that was some sort of slider to help keep the purse closed (as if gravity weren't enough) or to keep prying fingers out (as if they couldn't simply cut the suspension loop and run off with the whole thing.. see Goubitz's Purses in Pieces). It could be something akin to the 'ears' seen on the French one (to aid in opening), but I'm not convinced. I'm not actually convinced that both those knopfs on the French purse are 'ears'.. there's something going on in the one in the background.

There were two more, but this post is getting a wee bit long, and believe it or not, I actually have some work to do :-( I'll discuss the other ones later, and hopefully have some sketches at some point too!

*OK, I have the details somewhere, just not with me at the moment. It's besides the point anyhow.
**I promise a diagram!

18 August 2008

A frame purse tracked down

When I started all this purse madness, I wasn't very diligent about keeping track of my sources.. at least online sources. This proved to be quite aggravating, because after a year or so of staring at a few images that I had taken from SOMEONE's webpage SOMEWHERE.. I essentially gave up and filed them under "Well I hope I run across it in a museum one day."

Fortunately, one such mystery was solved tonight, after browsing around the Historické kostýmy a střihy site.. which looks like it was just updated today(?).

It's this little beauty right here. There are a few other purses scattered about the extant accessories section, as well as some nice belts, shoes, gloves, and other tidbits.

P.S. I still haven't tracked down the mystery purse from my first post, anyone out there have any clues?

15 August 2008

A side note

While posting the pictures in the previous post, I noticed that the photobucket sub-folder containing all these images is called "15th C purse project". Whereas Timothy Mitchell (A Stitch Out of Time) describes this particular stitching technique as being fashionable in the late 14th and early 15th centuries, it wasn't really my intent to pidgeon-hole the examples I've shown so far to such a precise time. Not a big problem, but in retrospect it irks me. I'd change the name of the subfolder, except then I'd have to edit all the posts with pictures with their resulting new URLs. Not worth it. I just wanted to point it out - not precisely an error, but not entirely a lack of one. :-)

Since I can't work on my current projects...

...I'll show off an old one. My first completed purse worked in the brick-stitch (sometimes referred to as opus teutonicum although I'm not entirely sure that's precise.. any comments here?)

Worked in 6-strand cotton embroidery floss on 28-ct cotton evenweave, no seam on the bottom. The heraldic elements were adapted from the arms I display at living history events (e.g. SCA), and only appear on one side of the purse (which I consider the "front" side). The lining is white silk brocade that I had lying aroud.

- Not going to get into the cotton vs silk/linen issue here, as it was my 1st attempt and I was/am a poor student :-)
- As far as construction is concerned, I made this before I fully understood the more historically common treatments of the seams (e.g. the "Gobelien stitch".. not sure if I spelled that correctly).
- I understand now that tassle heads were rarely (if ever) left uncovered.
- With the above comment in mind, my treatement of the attachement between drawstrings and tassles could've been a bit more thought-out..
- Lacks a suspension cord.

Some things I learned from this:
- Why the suspension loop is a good idea. (Because if you suspend it from the drawstrings, you will anger yourself every time you try to fish something out of it.)
- How to assimilate designs to 'fit' the style: better to lose some of the 'realism' of the design (e.g. my heraldic trebucht) in order to achieve a consistent look to the piece. It's easier for me to intuit this than to put it into writing. At least for now.

Here's a view of the back: