Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Admont Bible

Admont bible, Salzberg early 12th C, (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Wien. Cod. ser. nov. 2701 and 2 pages in École Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris. PC 22788)

The Admont Bible was produced in Salzburg, Austria, c1140's or maybe earlier (it's a topic of debate). Most of the book ended up in Hungary by the mid 13th C (it was bought back by Austria in 1937), except two leaves which ended up in France.

There is a lovely website with pictures of the manuscript and a history of it. Also on that site are links to a 14th C (Hungarian Angevin is 14th C !) and 15th C manuscript.

Dodwell finds it one of the best productions of the thriving world leading Romanesque Salzburg manuscript school. He says it's highly byzantine influenced, which I find quite clear to see in some of the women's hairstyles, decorative motifs, draperies, and more subtle details.

Women in this manuscript
This manuscript is not the best source material as are biblical figures, but the women certainly appear to be wearing fashionable clothes, not old fashioned ones. The answered question is how much is reality and how much fantasy?

f11 Boaz and Ruth. Ruth's sacrifice

  • Ruth is a down on her luck noble, depicted as faithful to her family, and doing the right thing, not a slut like Salome. In the first picture, Ruth is begging from and later courting a noble relative. In the second she works in the fields to feed herself and her mother in law.
  • The two pictures show differences in dress that may correspond to that change in activity.
  • In the First picture her dress has trim at neck and hemline, in the second none is apparent.
  • The first dress is shorter (although not the mid calf I expected) to display her long chemise underneath, and keep the precious trim off the floor. The second chemise may or may not be quite short - we can't see under her dress.
  • The first chemise is trimmed at the wrists, the second is not.
  • The first dress has wide flared sleeves, the second has loose sleeves that stop at her elbow - out of her way.
  • All of these seem practical changes to a dress for doing work.
  • The hairstyle in the first picture is more elaborate (possibly a byzantine style?) whereas in the second picture her plaits are enclosed in a covering and she wears a hat. While covering the hair while working is practical, I am not convinced that this style is more practical or quicker than the first style. A nice veil would be better, but maybe this would clash with her status as an available widow, and object of romance.

f12 Hannah and Peninnah,
  • Hannah, the favoured wife of Elkhanah, can't get pregnant, while the second wife Peninnah can.
  • Both Hannah (I'm assuming she's the childless one) and Peninnah wear similarly cut dresses and veils. The dresses are floor length, probably moderately loose in the body, and have flared sleeves.
  • Hannah's dress is from a patterned fabric, perhaps this displays her favoured status. (patterned fabrics are likely to cost more)
  • Both dresses are trimmed at the cuffs and hem. Hannah's dress has more decoration depicted on her trim.
  • The cuffs of Hannah's chemise or whitish layer underneath is trimmed, Peninnah's in not visible. No wrinkle effect is depicted on these tight sleeves.
  • Both women wear similar veils. Interestingly both are coloured veils, whereas white veils are more common.
  • No belt is visible.
f12 Hannah's sacrifice.
  • Elkhanah didn't mind that Hannah was childless, and still gave Hannah a larger portion of the sacrifice.
  • Hannah's dress is cut similarly to the last picture.
  • A small white blob is visible at the bottom of her maunche. Looking backwards, I think it might be visible on both women in the last picture too. I think this is what I've seen earlier, and thought might be a sleeve lining.

f12 Eli and Hannah
  • Hannah pleads with a priest to give her a son. (and it works, and all ends happily)
  • Hannah wears a red dress, with bell shaped sleeves - these seem to flare above the arm as well as below.
  • The dress is decorated at the v-shaped neck and has a couple of subtle lines of decoration above the hem
  • The dress appears to have been belted in tight at the waist with a wide yellow fabric band. (A corsolet?!)
  • A chemise is visible at the wrists with decorated cuffs, but interestingly I can't see it at her neck despite the lower v-neck of the dress.
  • Her hair is parted in the middle and plaited, probably in a single plait.

f18 The story of Hoshea
  • Hosea was a prophet who married a prostitute supposedly on god's orders. She probably cheats on him, he divorces her, then he can't stay away and buys her back from a lover or client.
  • The second picture depicts Hosea's inconstant wife in bed. She wears a cute beanie cap, and in the full picture I can just see pale yellow shirts to her ankles.
  • The second figure holding the child might be a midwife or just Hosea's wife on a more formal occasion?
  • A fairly simple dress, full length, gently flared sleeves from the elbow.
  • Who said pink wasn't period? Well actually this doesn't prove anything - the artist might just have the colour on his palette, but the colours used do generally seem to be plausible.
  • I wonder how she gets such wonderful folds in her veil in the first picture?
  • Has that white bit peaking from the bottom of the sleeve again.
  • The headwear provides a contrast between the lady in bed and the lady nursing. The veil appears to be headwear for a mature lady, while a prostitute wears young fashion of a cap.

f24 The affliction of Job
  • God permits Satan to test Job's faith by afflicting him with bad stuff, like the boils pictured. 3 male friends and his wife try to get him to give up on God, but he refuses.
  • The lady in red is mostly likely Job's wife, who refutes god and dies. I'm not sure who the second lady is - she doesn't seem to fit the story.
  • Both ladies wear loose dresses with flared sleeves. The lady in pinks' sleeves are a more traditional shape, with trim. I think the lady in red's sleeves are supposed to be the same, just badly drawn.
  • The lady in pink's sleeve has the white blob at the bottom again.
  • White chemises show at the sleeves of both garments.
  • Both wear veils. the y have a similar drape about the head, showing some of the neck, but the lady in red's veil has a loose end over her shoulder. This may represent a (partially undone) veil in which ends are crossed over the neck and flipped behind the head. the lady in pink's veil shows strong fold lines in opposing directions at the neck. the loose end looks a lot to me like the shape made by tapered fabric, rather than square, for example the corner of a half circle.

f26 Bride and groom (not illustrated)
  • It's very hard to see this picture, but the bride must be the one dressed in pink.
  • The garment has flared sleeves, with some decoration at cuff and collar.
  • There are also two vertical lines. They could be plaits, but i think she is wearing a veil. I think they look more like two lines of decoration, along side seams or just inside of them.

Costume accessories - men's hats
Hats from folio 9 & folio 10

Also in the manuscript are a number of interesting men's hats. I'm used to phygian caps and beanie caps, these caps are a slight variation in exact shape. But what caught my notice especially is the vertical stripes on the hats. Hats can easily be made by naalbinding or sprang, and I've been speculating (along with others) if 12th C hats in these styles might be made so. So far there's been no evidence.

Could these vertical lines be an indication? Maybe, but another hat from the same manuscript is in a diamond pattern, which could still be sprang, but a very different representation of it, so maybe we are just seeing a decorative finish by the artist.
Hat from folio 14

Saturday, 26 May 2007


Because Joanna piqued my curiosity....

What do images show of 12th C women riding? I think I remember only sidesaddles, but can I actually provide some proof so I can say this with confidence.

Before you do, check out this fantastic article on the construction of a replica from pictures and guesswork. Someone on the 12th C mailing list pointed out that I may be using the wrong terminology. Side chair might be the better term for what I am referring to.

A quick skim of the Museum of London Book "the medieval Horse and it's equipage" reveals nothing about riding on the side, although I could have missed something in the fine text. Holmes's "Daily living in the 12th C" names a sidesaddle as a sambue in 12thC french and says that Enide rides one through out her adventures in the medieval romance Erec und Enid. The sambue is also mentioned in Aoil and in Chanson de Guilamme, where it is used with stirrups. He also says it's unclear how often they were actually used by women.

from the artwork: (as always, click on pictures for a bigger version)

The flight into Egypt, roof mural Zillis, St Martin c1140-60
Mary rides a donkey (the ears!)

The flight into Egypt, Wall painting, Church of St Aignan, Brinay, mid 12th C.
It's hard to see in black and white, but Joseph is leading the donkey.

The flight into Egypt, Bib. Nat. Ms lat. 12117, fol 108, c1050
A smidge earlier - just to prove this wasn't a new phenomenon.

The whore of Babylon, horus delectarum f258, Hohenbourg, Alsace 1170-1200
(This is a 19th C copy, but unlikely to get these big details so wrong)
Look at the lovely demon horse monster! Obviously riding on the side is not limited to sedate ladies like Mother Mary, but is also practiced by scandalous women.

Superbia (allergorical figure) horus delectarum (unknown folio)
(I don't know if this is an original or copied page - if it's a copy it's certainly one of the better ones). Superbia is leading an army to attack here. It seems rather ridiculous for her to be doing so sitting sideways, but she is. Maybe riding sideways was more ingrained than I thought, after all allegorical figures are allowed to do things like throw spears that women can't but the still can't ride astride?
Her feet are at uneven heights, whereas the previous pictures have even feet. Perhaps the others have sidesaddles with footrests, but Superbia has stirrups?

Betrix of Reithel travelling (to wed) and Queen Constance travelling (to wed Henry VI, then to Sicily, then home), Berne Codex of Pietro of Eboli's poem in honour of Henry VI, Late 12/early 13th C?
These are horses, not more donkeys, and you can see two feet below the ladies skirts. Note how they are both travelling to their new home to wed. That seems to have been a very 12th C thing - a noble lady only made one big journey in her life, and that was when she left her father's house to go to her bridegroom's house. (Or at least according to my memories of what Holmes says in "Daily living in the 12th C").

Although Constance makes 2 big trips - From home (Sicily) to the Holy Roman Empire (Germany) then back to Sicily so Henry could claim Sicily through right of marriage to her, the only daughter of the last Sicilian King (with the help of an army and a kidnapped pope). Constance was so essential to this claim that she was dragged along even though she was pregnant with Henry's heir.

The last picture is the only one you can see clearly, (sorry,I'd love a better copy of this fascinating manuscript) and Constance is clearly riding a stallion. No sedate donkeys for the wife of the richest man in Europe.

Copenhagen psalter, England, 1175-1200
f10v 3 Magi/Kings, f12r the flight into Egypt, f13r
The entry into Jerusalem

Three images of different types of riding. The three Kings show men riding horses in saddles which are high at front and back. Mother Mary sits sidesaddle on a donkey (or mule?) led by Joseph. Finally Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey sitting sidesaddle but holding the reins himself. It's interesting that they portray Jesus doing this - I guess they extend the humbleness of riding a donkey one step further to riding a donkey like a woman does. I can't recall other depictions of this scene shown this way, but maybe I wasn't paying much attention. At any rate What Jesus is depicted as doing will have little relevance to ordinary men.

Picture bible, North-western France (Monastery St. Bertin ?); c. 1200, (The Hague, KB, 76 F 5)
Ah, here's a more conventional picture (I've found a few others the same now too) of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. Humble on a donkey, but astride. Notice the apparent lack of saddles on donkeys, just a blanket. Interesting, although maybe the fabric is hiding the saddle. I guess maybe they didn't need a saddle if the donkey had a gentler gait and never went fast.

I'm not going to say that all women rode on the side, just that the illustrations give some good evidence that quite a few did - they weren't all riding astride. (No I haven't left out any illustrations of women astride, I didn't find any).