RE: [MedievalSawdust] Re: photos: wooden reliquary
- Perhaps I should have gone further with detailing the "scrimping" and "middle class techniques".
I didn't mean to suggest that there is always high-class joinery involved in wooden reliquaries. Honestly I have been more than surprised at the joinery that has been found on such pieces as it goes beyond nailed butt joints. The joinery was never a thing that concerned me.
The bent nails on the outside of the case, twisted wire hinges, and especially the exposed wood more bespoke the lesser quality in the construction than any other element. The marks on the wood that appear to be either brush strokes or marks from a toothed blade really seem to point to there having been another layer of material between the wood and the cast pieces originally.
As you say, with pieces like this we typically find leather, gesso (and paint), silver or tin plating, and possibly over any of these metal leaf or other decoration, which makes the joinery invisible and irrelevant.
It's that lack that I refer to when I say "scrimping". These objects were, and in many places remain, highly celebrated items. For all we in the post-Reformation world may consider visual spectacle being separate from everlasting importance, the opposite was more the case in the pre-Modern Era. And even then, putting all the bells and whistles on a product someone wishes us to buy is part of the marketing ploy.
The fact that they took the time to carefully rebuild the latch mechanism to be functional, I think, suggests that the rebuild was prior to the 19th century, or at least to a point when the reliquary was still "in use" as a religious item.
> From: albionwood@...
> Vels - I have to disagree in part, with the assertion that reliquaries
> were always built with high-class joinery/skill. In fact most of the
> small wooden boxes I've seen in museums, including some that were
> definitely reliquaries, were simply nailed together with butt joints;
> the joinery is practically nonexistent. Part of the reason is that such
> boxes were nearly always either leather-covered, or gessoed and painted
> (or, more rarely, covered with silver sheet, as you suggest). Either
> way, the joinery becomes invisible and irrelevant.
> I do concur that this particular specimen probably has been rebuilt,
> perhaps with elements from other coffers, and/or has lost some of its
> original decoration. If the roundels are original, then I suggest it
> was almost undoubtedly originally leather-bound, as I have seen two or
> three similarly decorated leather-covered coffers. I also agree with
> you, those double-canopy elements are not pilgrim badges.
> So my guess is that this coffer was taken apart and stripped of its
> leather covering (or possibly paint/gesso), sometime in its postmedieval
> history (most likely in the 19th c when the object was "discovered" -
> happened a lot in that era). No doubt the leather was worn and
> unattractive, perhaps moldy and tattered, etc. The decorative scheme
> may have been rearranged at the same time, or at some other point in its
> history. (To me the roundels look 13th or early 14th c, the
> double-arched "badges" look later.) Again, this is something that was
> done a lot in the late 19th and early 20th century; though, it should be
> noted, it was also done in the Middle Ages as well.